by Jeff Tieman, VAHHS President and CEO We cannot let our guard down.
Right now, Vermont has a low infection rate and less than a handful of people hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide. Our ICU capacity is not stressed and community transmission is not substantial. This great news is the result of our collective hard work. But we cannot let up on our commitment to known and effective prevention strategies. We know this because in Houston and other parts of the country, infection rates are climbing dramatically and hospitalizations are growing exponentially.
Compared with other states, including our neighbors, we continue to be fortunate on COVID-19 rates. That is not by accident. Vermont’s success containing the virus is the direct result of smart policy and a shared understanding of how to keep each other safe.
Early on, Vermonters adopted social distancing measures. We listened to the public health guidance on washing hands, touching faces and cleaning surfaces. And we wore masks to minimize the chances of spreading infection.
Our state leaders took the right steps, too. We closed non-essential businesses and schools, and we suspended non-urgent medical procedures when we feared a surge would overwhelm our health care system. And we have approached re-opening the state carefully. All of this has saved lives and prevented illness. Without a doubt.
We must continue all these efforts, even double down on some of them. The hospital surge we most feared several weeks ago can still take place if we abandon the good work done so far. Cities around the country are sadly illustrating that fact as I type these words.
Together let’s make sure Vermont stays on the course we are on – a smart, careful course informed by real data and fueled by public health guidance. On that note, I offer my thanks to Dr. Mark Levine, who leads the Vermont Department of Health and has been such a terrific leader and teacher for our state.
The good news is that we can easily stay on course. We already know what to do because we have been doing it better than most places: quarantine if we have symptoms, avoid large and prolonged indoor gatherings, use hand sanitizer, keep a safe distance from others, stay informed and aware and wear facemasks.
Speaking of facemasks, we know with certainty that wearing them is among the most generous and selfless things we can to protect vulnerable Vermonters including the elderly, children with disabilities and those living with chronic diseases. We all know someone who fits into one of these categories. Let’s all do this one small act of kindness to protect those who are depending on us so much right now.
We still have a heap of challenges to manage, the most urgent of which is to care for those who are vulnerable and get people back to work. And of course to be constantly ready for an outbreak of COVID-19. Vermont’s handling of the crisis so far gives me hope we can take on these challenges as our state has shown fortitude and thoughtfulness, patience and generosity.
COVID-19 is no easy enemy but we have some good and powerful tools – not the least of which is our resolve to work together as neighbors and friends – if we remember to use them early and often. We must keep doing what has protected us so far. We cannot let our guard down now.