Dr Stephen Leffler, president of UVMMC, with CEO Dr John Brumsted, speaks with members of the media about the region's first presumptive case of coronavirus outside the hospital's main entrance Thursday afternoon. The presser was moved outside for health reasons. VBM photo.
by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine Leaders of the University of Vermont Medical Center met with the news media Thursday afternoon to update the public on the current status of the first Burlington-area patient to have received a presumptive positive test for novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. He is the second in Vermont. The first was in Bennington less than a week ago. The new information the hospital relayed was that there are two more patients at UVMMC that are being monitored with possible COVID-19, that the visitor protocol has changed to allow for only two visitors for each patient, and that the unnamed patient now being treated is in intensive care in an isolation unit and is in critical condition.
President Stephen Leffler said the hospital has six units ready for patients and other hospitals in the network and across the region could also be employed. They already have been in contact with Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon, NH. Leffler added that the hospital could ramp up as needed. He said they have plenty of supplies.
Network CEO Dr Jon Brumsted emphasized several times that each person should follow commonsense steps to reduce the chance of infection by engaging in "social distancing," not meeting indoors with more than 25 people, washing hands and not shaking hands. The social distancing, for instance, suggests that you keep six feet from someone else in public situations and avoid crowds. At one point Brumsted suggested that media members, knotted together outside the hospital, spread out and move back, but none did. The presser initially was scheduled for indoors and moved outdoors for health reasons and the hospitals new protocol.
Brumsted also emphasized that there will be more positive cases in the Burlington area and in the state. He said everyone will likely come in contact with people who are infected and not only not know it but possibly will not show symptoms.
They also asked the public not to just head to the emergency room if they were feeling ill. They said to first contact their own physician or urgent care provider who will make the call on whether they should go to the hospital. This is to keep the Emergency Department free to handle more severe cases, as well as to allow for them to handle their regular caseload.
Leffler said that the hospital's highest priority is to provide high-quality care to patients while maintaining a safe workspace for staff. He said they have been preparing for COVID and previously have had to deal with other infectious diseases, including H1N1 and Ebola. He said it is critical that staff is well protected for both their own sake and for the protection and treatment of patients.
Leffler and others at the press conference, including Dr Tim Lahey, who heads the infectious disease department, and Dawn LeBaron, VP of hsopital services, said that the hospital is "the last line of defense," emphasizing that personal behavior and the social distancing is critical to reducing the opportunity for the virus to spread.
As for the patient now in critical condition, they said he was feeling ill, called his doctor, was referred to the hospital and the man came in by ambulance on Tuesday, he was treated in the ED, was admitted to the hospital and put in isolation, received the COVID-19 test, and the presumptive positive test came back on Wednesday.
Because of federal HIPAA laws, hospital officials were unable to provide any further information. All they could say is that he is a man in his 70s and he is from Chittenden County.
They said the Vermont Department of Health is trying to track his movements and understand where he has been, including large gatherings, and how he might have contracted the novel coronavirus, which is now described as a global pandemic.
Response protocols have been developed across the UVM Health Network based upon the organization's significant experience with similar health care scenarios.
At UVM Medical Center, a multidisciplinary team is coordinating preparedness and tailoring plans as more information about the virus becomes available. This group includes front line health care providers, senior leadership, patient placement, supply management, industrial hygiene, staff educators, emergency preparedness practitioners, facilities management, pharmacy, communications, infection prevention and infectious disease. We continue to remain up-to-date with current CDC and Vermont Department of Health guidelines.
“UVM Medical Center has been preparing to treat patients with COVID-19 for several weeks. We’ve had everyone at the table that needs to be there. Our teams are well-trained and ready to offer high-quality care to anyone infected with the virus. We have the necessary resources to ensure our patients receive the care they need,” said Leffler.
LeBaron said the visitor policy is voluntary for now, but the hospital will monitor the situation and could tighten the policy if necessary.
COVID-19 is spread through droplets in the air, so coughing and sneezing can spread to nearby people. It is likely it can contaminate surfaces as well. The incubation period is thought to be 14 days. While coronavirus is front and center in the news, we are still in the peak of flu season. There are several simple steps that can help prevent the spread of the flu and coronavirus, including:
- If you are sick, stay home.
- Clean your hands frequently – wash your hands and use portable alcohol hand sanitizer before you eat.
- Cough and sneeze into your arm, not your hands.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Avoid crowded spaces.
- Avoid traveling to countries the CDC has highlighted as having widespread, sustained transmission.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are a cough, fever and/or shortness of breath – similar to the flu. If you have mild symptoms, you should stay home and rest. If you more severe symptoms, such as trouble breathing or inability to eat or drink, call your doctor right away. If you have been in a place where the virus is circulating, you should also call your primary care doctor to get advice. Do not go to Urgent Care or the Emergency Department unless you’re short-of-breath, or otherwise need urgent medical help.
Additional updates related to COVID-19 will be posted to our website at: www.uvmhealth.org/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx
You can also visit the Vermont Department of Health Website for more information: www.healthvermont.gov/response/infectious-disease/2019-novel-coronavirus
The Edge Reports VHD Notice of COVID Infected Member
The Sports & Fitness Edge on March 12 sent the following email to members. It is not known if this is related to the presumptive positive patient now at UVMMC:
"Dear Edge Community,
"We were informed today by the Vermont Department of Health that a member came into our Eastwood Drive (South Burlington) location for a single visit on March 2, 2020. This member has tested positive for COVID-19. The Vermont Department of Health has contacted anyone (member and employee alike) who had possible direct and prolonged contact with this member. The Health Department has conducted outreach to these individuals on their next steps and if they need to stay home and self-monitor. The Vermont Department of Health is conducting "contact tracing" which means the Health Department will reach out to anyone who has been determined to be at risk from exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Any member or staff who did not have direct or prolonged contact with the member is categorized as low risk. If you have not been contacted today by the Vermont Department of Health you can consider that you are at low risk.
"The Vermont Department of Health has not recommended any further measures by The EDGE at this time. The EDGE, as standard practice, has been conducting nightly cleaning and disinfecting and as you have noticed recently added daytime cleaners for additional disinfecting.
"The EDGE chooses to act out of an abundance of caution, the following measures:
The Eastwood Drive location will be closed for extensive deep cleaning. After a thorough cleaning, surfaces will be disinfected using a hospital grade cleaning solution approved for use in schools, hospitals and public facilities. Walls, floors, doors and door frames, sinks, drinking fountains, counter tops, furniture, lockers, all equipment; any surface that may be touched will be disinfected.
The above steps will be taken at all EDGE locations on a rolling basis over the next week. Please keep checking your email for updates on locations and dates.
"THE EASTWOOD DRIVE LOCATION WILL BE CLOSED EFFECTIVE THURSDAY, MARCH 12, 2020 STARTING AT 5:00PM AND WILL PLAN TO RE-OPEN SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 2020
"It is important as a community that we all work together with compassion and understanding during these unknown times."
About the University of Vermont Medical Center
The University of Vermont Medical Center is a 447-bed tertiary care regional referral center providing advanced care to approximately 1 million residents in Vermont and northern New York. Together with our partners at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, we are Vermont’s academic medical center. The University of Vermont Medical Center also serves as a community hospital for approximately 150,000 residents in Chittenden and Grand Isle counties.
The University of Vermont Medical Center is a member of The University of Vermont Health Network, an integrated system established to deliver high quality academic medicine to every community we serve.
Source: UVMMC. The Edge