COVID-19 outbreak may be slowing in Vermont; hospitals prepare for surge in patients

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The state of Vermont on Thursday released forecasting models that suggest the spread of COVID-19 has slowed in the state, although officials warn that the outcome is far from certain at this point.

Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, said the state’s calculations do nor represent definitive outcomes, but rather a way to better predict how the state should respond going forward.

“We are using these forecasts to determine important hospital resource needs,” he said. “Things like the number of staff hospital beds we will need, how many ICU beds we will need, the available ventilators, and the supply of PPE.”

Pieciak said that a week ago, Vermont was experiencing a growth rate of new cases in the top fifteen percent in the country. However, with the extensive measures Vermont is taking that rate is decreasing. While the numbers show a glimmer of hope, officials emphasized that Vermonters should continue to heed the directives from Gov. Phil Scott, including last week’s order for residents to stay home as much as possible. They said it could take ten to fourteen days to see the full effect of these sacrifices.

“You will see that Vermont is on a very different trajectory,” he said. “You see that we have moved to the right of Massachusetts. We have moved further away from Connecticut. We have moved to the right of Pennsylvania and moving closer to Rhode island and New Hampshire.”

New cases in Vermont were doubling every three days, but that rate has slowed to about every five days. “We need more data to confirm the exact trajectory that we are on, but it is indicating to us initially that part of this is due to the sacrifices that Vermonters are making.” Pieciak said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Smith says the state is creating an approach to help local hospitals manage a potential surge on new patients. “This will consist of a regionalized state support to assist hospitals were the surge and a centralized approach to address state medical max,” he said.

Outbreak response teams are monitoring at least eight nursing homes or group-living facilities that have reported cases. But Health Commissioner Mark Levine says it doesn’t make sense to order a complete lock down.

“A lock down would have to include basically leaving everyone who lives their now there and not allowing anyone new in,” he said. “And not even discharging anyone to a new facility. I think that would be brought with substantial challenge.”

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