Levine touts ‘full-court press’ to ease testing rules Covid positives up by 26 from yesterday, 2 more patients die

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Click map to enlarge.

While the nominal purpose of Gov. Phil Scott’s press conference this morning was to talk about his order to dismiss schools for the remainder of the year, that was overshadowed by the announcement of relaxed requirements for testing Vermonters for Covid-19, the increase in positive tests by 26 to a statewide total of 184 and the death of two more patients, bringing the total to 10.

The total in the map, however, show  178 cases with a total of 28 new cases. Where the six to eight other cases are located could not be determined at publishing time. The state chart also shows a discrepancy in numbers.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine announced a “containment strategy” to help slow the spread of the virus and than includes more latitude for doctors in ordering tests for Covid-19. Where the guidance in the past has been fairly strict and limiting, going forward, people with “mild to moderate symptoms” will have more opportunity to be tested. The idea, according to Levine, is to identify more Covid-19 positive people early, isolate them and slow the spread of the virus.

Click chart to enlarge

Levine said that doing broader testing earlier has been a successful strategy to “flatten the curve” in other countries and that it is still early enough for such a strategy to work in Vermont.

The commissioner said that test will still be prioritized and those without symptoms will not be tested. Someone wanting to be tested will still have to go through a health-care provider who must order the test. “Don’t just show up at a testing site or a drive through,” said Levine.

Levine said more testing can be done because of a “very aggressive procurement strategy” for both the collecting kits and lab materials. The risk according Levine is that the “full-court press” would draw down the state’s supply of testing kits. Levine said the state has augmented its team to continue aggressively pursuing the supplies needed to do this.

“The benefit of more and earlier testing outweighs slowing the testing later,” said Levine.

Surge sites in southern Vermont?

On Wednesday The Telegraph asked what plans the state had for medical capacity in the event of a surge of cases. The governor had ordered the National Guard to set up three surge sites in St. Albans, Burlington and Barre earlier and Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Schirling said that they were working on planning with hospitals taking the lead. On Thursday, officials at Springfield Hospital said they had not been contacted by the state to work on the surge.

Asked the question again today, Schirling said the Surge Task Force is made up of people from the Health Department, the hospital association and some hospital presidents as well as members of his team and that they touched base with all of the hospitals on Thursday. Schirling said the state would deploy resources in “a nimble kind of way,” but that a lot of the surge capacity will be inside the hospitals with secondary capacity that’s built at the hospitals’ request.

“We don’t anticipate you are going to see a surge site deployed in the southern part of the state like the first ones,” said Schirling noting that the clinical judgment on this is “evolving.”

Asked about the seeming disconnect between the Task Force and a hospital, Schirling said: “The president of the hospital association and the executive director of the association are on the surge team working this daily and the communication lines to the hospitals generally go through them.”

This afternoon, Jeffrey Tieman, president and CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, said that the situation is fast moving and they don’t know where the need will emerge.

“There is not a specific site selected yet, there is a discussion about where those would be and as conditions change on the ground, decisions about that capacity will be made,” said Tieman. “Our hospital community gets together in a lot of ways for example we do a three times a week call early in the morning with all of the hospital CEOs and similarly once a week we bring together all of the hospitals’ chief medical officers and all of the emergency room directors. Using the information we get to inform the Medical Surge Task Force.”

Asked if there is a plan for what to do in the event of a surge in Covid cases, Tieman said they are evaluating and updating options every day based on the emerging need. “There’s not a locked down plan at this point because things are changing so rapidly. The whole state is being very thoughtfully considered in this process.”

Smoking and vaping

Levine also noted that people who smoke or vape – tobacco, cannabis or anything else – have a more difficult time fighting off the coronavirus, putting them at much greater risk of severe illness, even death. He said there has never been a better time to quit and pointed 802quits.org as a resource for help.

The Vermont Department of Health today also announced the launch of 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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: Cases reportedCovid 19 CoverageFeaturedLatest NewsMandated shutdowns

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.