Social distancing working as Vermont lowers growth rate of COVID-19

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Social distancing working as Vermont lowers growth rate of COVID-19

Thu, 04/02/2020 - 6:38pm -- tim

by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine The growth rate in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Vermont slowing down, which has led to cautious optimism among top Scott Administration officials that Vermont will experience a much less severe spread of the disease than worst-case scenario projections. The current models project the “peak” of cases between mid-to-late April and early May.

Officials emphasized that the social distancing sacrifices Vermonters are making by staying at home are working, and the following weeks will be critical to saving lives. They also said that the peak will come later, and thus be less severe, if people stay the course.

State officials provided an overview to the media of projections of COVID-19 cases and hospitalization needs Thursday afternoon. Data supports the message of social distancing (and remote working, closing schools, and shuttering of some businesses), as commuter (down 50 percent) and daily traffic (over 40 percent) numbers have diminished.

"We control the outcome (of how COVID-19 spreads)," said Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak, who led the modeling presentation. But, he added, "We must remain vigilant."

"We're not out of the woods yet," he said, but there are "early glimmers of hope."

As those early glimmers come in, more health and safety equipment is also coming in. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is well stocked and critical items like ventilators are on order. The state has ordered another 453 ventilators. Currently the state has 93 and only one is in use as of today.

There are 622 hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients across the state with 29 patients now under care. Eight of those patients are in one of the 135 ICU beds.

Pieciak broke down now the medical need: According to the data, 19 percent of all COVID-19 patients will need a hospital bed. Of those 16-25 percent will need to be attended in the ICU and about 54 percent of those patients will need a ventilator.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling said that if the state keeps to the "likely" scenario described in today's modeling, that Vermont will have enough equipment as it stands now, if only just. 

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the state is ordering much more equipment because it always must plan for the worst.

But given the relative good news today, he was pressed by reporters on when the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order might be lifted.

It is scheduled to be lifted April 16, but Governor Scott indicated Thursday that Vermonters should prepare themselves for it to be extended.

Given his past comments on how he gives a heads-up to impending public orders, this statement indicates that he likely will extend the order.

"I don't think we want to put a time frame on this," Smith said. He noted that today was the first time state officials have offered a forecast on the peak.

He acknowledged that staying home was hard and not working and staying home was harder, but it was working.

"We have to ask for patience," he said.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, emphasized the success of the effort: Vermont is now a top ten state in the reduction of growth in the disease. The state is also doing more testing, which of course will provide better statewide data.

Vermont has a daily growth rate of 12 percent, which is declining and is seventh best in the nation. Arizona is best at 9 percent, but increasing. New York, the hardest hit state, is also declining at 13 percent. While New Hampshire, which has trailed Vermont in the number of cases and deaths, has seen its rate increasing and is now fifth worst with a 25 percent daily growth increase.

As for the surge sites that have increased and are spreading statewide, none are currently in use. They also will be used for non-COVID-19 cases (with the possible exception of the one at UVM).

The hospitals are preparing to take on the surge in COVID-19 patients, if and when that happens.

Schirling said that there could be two surges. First would be in the total number of cases and the second would be the number of patients in the hospitals.

The officials also confirmed that the state has four refrigerated trucks on standby as temporary morgues. This is a grim reminder of how the state must prepare for the "just-in-case" scenario, Schirling said.

Smith said that it wasn't the hospital beds or equipment that is likely to fall short, but the number of medical personnel that would be needed. A call for volunteers with any kind of medical background, active or retired, veterinarians or EMTs, has generated some to sign up but he said they needed more.

Everything is on the table, he said, including non-EMTs driving ambulances if they're needed elsewhere.

"There isn't a playbook for this, guys," he said. "I'm asking, please sign up."

Vermont Department of Health

Daily Update on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

April 2, 2020

New information is in red

This update is also available at healthvermont.gov/covid19 under UPDATES

Vermonters are asked to stay home as much as possible to keep everyone safe during this pandemic. Please leave for essentials only, such as food, and keep a safe distance of 6 feet between yourself and others. This is critical to limiting the impact of the virus and protecting people who are more vulnerable to serious illness, including death.

Though we may all feel isolated at this time, we can, and should, connect with each other through technology, reading books, playing games and finding hobbies we enjoy. We’re all in this together.

Visit healthvermont.gov/covid19 for the up-to-date information and guidance. 

Vermont’s Response

Medical surge preparations
Gov. Phil Scott today (April 2) announced additional medical surge locations to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 patients and the need for additional hospital and medical capacity. In partnership with the Vermont National Guard, the State is creating two additional high capacity care sites for surge: one in Essex Junction at the Champlain Valley Exposition, which will provide 400 beds staffed primarily by Vermont National Guard personnel; and another in Rutland County, supported by the Rutland Regional Medical Center, which will provide 150 beds. 
Read more details HERE.

Forecasting of COVID-19 cases

State officials provided an overview to the media of projections of COVID-19 cases and hospitalization needs. The current models project the “peak” of cases between mid-to-late April and early May. Officials emphasized that the sacrifices Vermonters are making by staying at home are working, and the following weeks will be critical to saving lives.

Volunteering

Gov. Scott is calling all Vermonters into service with the launch of a new website allowing people to sign up for volunteer assistance to support the state’s response to COVID-19: https://vermont.gov/volunteer. The website directs those with medical and healthcare skills to the Medical Reserve Corp (MRC), and those with other needed skills to a quick registration process to sign up to help. Read the story.

Travel Restrictions

On Monday, March 30, Gov. Scott announced new restrictions on travelers arriving in Vermont. Residents and non-residents coming to Vermont from outside the state ­– for anything other than an essential purpose ­­– should home-quarantine for 14 days. Travel to Vermont by anyone from a COVID-19 “hot spot” is strongly discouraged at this time. Read the order and the press release.

Travelers should follow the CDC’s Domestic Travel Advisory for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which advised residents of those states to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days.

Lodging Operations

The Governor’s order also clarifies that all lodging operations are to be suspended. Lodging facilities – which includes hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, short term rentals (e.g. VRBO, HomeAway, Airbnb, etc.), and all public and private camping facilities and RV parks – are to be closed except for stated exemptions when supporting the state’s COVID-19 response.

Online lodging reservations are also suspended. The Vermont State Police and local law enforcement will monitor lodging providers for compliance and work with the Attorney General’s Office on additional compliance measures if needed.

Testing

Two additional COVID-19 testing sites opened this week in Essex and Grand Isle counties to provide Vermonters with as broad access to testing as possible. Additional sites will be opened as the needs are determined. The two latest sites are located at the Island Pond Health Center in Island Pond and at the Champlain Islands Health Center in South Hero.

IMPORTANT: Everyone must have a referral from their provider in order to be tested.

  • CALL your health care provider to be evaluated and for the provider to determine if you need a test.
  • DO NOT go to a testing site without an order from your provider.
  • Patients who are NOT experiencing symptoms will not be tested.

Additional Actions

On March 26, Gov. Scott directed schools to remain dismissed through the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

On March 24, Gov. Scott issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order and directed the closure of in-person operations for all non-essential businesses, effective 5 p.m. March 25, 2020.  

Read more about what the order means to Vermonters. Read more about what this means for businesses.

The order follows Gov. Scott’s declaration of a state of emergency in March, and a series of community mitigation actions throughout the month.

The Vermont Department of Health has launched VTHelplink, a new, single source clearinghouse for Vermonters to receive free, confidential and personalized information and referrals to substance use prevention, treatment and recovery services throughout the state. Read the press release.

Case Information

New: Limited hospitalization data is now being provided below and at healthvermont.gov/covid19.

Current COVID-19 Activity in Vermont

As of 1:00 p.m. on April 2, 2020

Positive test results*

 

338

 

Total tests conducted 

 

4,711

 

Deaths+

 

17

 

People being monitored

 

127

 

People who have completed monitoring

 

677

 

*Includes testing conducted at the Health Department Laboratory, commercial labs and other public health labs.

+Death occurring in persons known to have COVID-19. Death certificate may be pending.

Hospitalization Rates

Hospitalized patients with COVID-19

 

29

 

Hospitalized patients under investigation for COVID-19

 

42

 

Hospitalization data is provided by the Vermont Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Coalition and is based on hospitals updating this information as they are able.

Covid-19 Map

These tables, a map of case numbers by county, and a chart of case number totals are available on our COVID-19 web page under COVID-19 Activity in Vermont.

Guidance for Vermonters

When to call:

  • If you have questions: Dial 2-1-1. If you have trouble reaching 2-1-1, dial 1-866-652-4636. You can also use the Ask a Question tool on healthvermont.gov.
  • If you are sick or concerned about your health: Call your health care provider by phone. Do not go to the hospital, except in a life-threatening situation.

If you are ill, call your health care provider. Testing is not treatment and not everyone needs to be tested. Do not call 2-1-1 or the Health Department about testing.

Translated Materials

The Health Department has fact sheets translated into nine languages on its website What You Need to Know About Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

You can also find links to translated videos created by the Spectrum Multicultural Youth Program, Howard Center and other Burlington community members.

Find these at healthvermont.gov/covid19 under “Translated Materials.”

Stay up to date at healthvermont.gov/covid19