Vermont adds five virus testing sites as hospitals prepare for the rise in COVID-19 cases

Rutland County

RUTLAND, Vt. (WFFF) — As the COVID-19 count continues to rise in Vermont, state officials announced that five new testing centers will open soon in Burlington, Middlebury, Waterbury, Rutland, and Brattleboro.

Gov. Phil Scott said the additional sites will put two-thirds of Vermonters will be within a 30-minute drive of a coronavirus test.

The state is also offering surveillance tests to all teachers and staff in K-12 schools. On Monday 1,700 teachers and staff were swabbed, and that will continue throughout the week, said state Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

“Don’t look at them as teachers and school staff—look at them as members of their community and they represent what’s going on with the virus in their community,” Levine said.

At a briefing Tuesday, Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak showed data that indicated hospitalizations and intensive care admissions could increase quickly. But, he said, the state’s hospitals can accommodate.

“In terms of the potentially 40-50 general beds for COVID, that is within the hospitals’ capacity currently, and projected to be in the hospital’s capacity in the future when accounting for flu hospitalizations as well,” Pieciak said.

Last week, Scott directed the State Emergency Operations Center to prepare for the surge and said field hospital sites will be deployed as a precautionary measure. A surge facility at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction, which has remained staged with 50 beds, will add another 100, with 250 more beds in reserve. A 50-bed field hospital trailer near Rutland is ready to add another 50 beds.

Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the state has 246 available ventilators. But with more medical intervention available now than in the early stages of the pandemic, Levine said fewer cases should require intensive care.

“We know so much more about how to keep people who are in the hospital out of the ICU, and if they get to the ICU we have found there are fewer of them on ventilators because we have strategies to utilize in caring for them,” Levine said.

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