Vt. health officials say state 'doing well' to flatten curve

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont health officials say efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus appear to be paying off, but that now is not the time to relax social distancing and the state's stay at home order.

"I think it's important to be honest with you, so as we head into the next few weeks, we need to be prepared for things to get worse before they get better," Gov. Phil Scott said Monday.

Scott and Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Vermonters efforts to stay inside and keep others safe are paying off. Only 10 to 12 percent of our COVID-19 tests are coming back positive, Which Levine says means we're saving lives. "The social distancing mitigation strategies are working here," he said. All of what we're doing now, when it's done, could potentially have saved 1,700 lives.

There was also some good news about personal protective equipment. The Public Safety Commissioner said Vermont isn't going through PPE as fast as expected. As of Saturday, they'd ordered 3.7 million items -- mostly masks. Officials also pointed to several Vermont companies that are stepping up to help.

Governor Scott says he's encouraged. "We're maintaining our inventory. We feel comfortable with what we have, but we need to continue to get that supply to backfill what we're using," he said. And he indicated the Green Mountain State would step up to help other states once our own needs were taken care of. "If we get to a point where we have an excess amount, obviously we'll be giving to others."

But some are concerned the state isn't being transparent enough about where PPE is and how long it will last. "We have a right to know how much personal protective equipment we have in the state and how long they do expect it to last," said Deb Snell, president of the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. She said some staff at other hospitals are anxious that they might not have enough PPE if numbers rise. "We just want every hospital to know that they're going to have what they need."

Snell's also an ICU nurse at the UVM Medical Center, and says every staff member at every hospital needs to feel safe. "We want to take care of you. We want to do our best. And to do that, we have to feel like we are safe going in, taking care of you we need to know that we can go home at the end of the night not having brought anything home with us," she said.

The state has put out several different models showing how our levels of PPE might play out over various virus scenarios. The current trajectory looks like we will have enough of the surgical masks, N95 masks, and other body protection equipment. They've spent $20 million on new PPE and ventilators as of late last week.