Editor’s note: This story was updated from its original version to include new information released Saturday afternoon by the Vermont Department of Health.
ST. ALBANS: Officials at Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans announced Saturday morning that there were two positive cases for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus at their facility.
According to Jonathan Billings, the public information officer at the hospital, the two cases were confirmed by the health department Saturday morning.
Billing said the patients had been notified and are now being treated in the hospital’s old intensive care unit, previously decommissioned after the hospital went through an expansion a couple of years ago.
According to the Vermont Health Department, there were 16 new cases that tested positive in Vermont on Saturday, including the two from Northwestern Medical Center.
Both cases from Northwestern Medical Center are 80-year-old men who reside in Franklin County, according to a statement released by Ben Truman of the Department of Health.
In addition to the two Franklin County cases, the state also said that the new cases announced today included seven residents at Burlington Health and Rehab center, the largest known cluster in the State to date.
Of the 16 new cases announced today, only three are in need of hospitalization, the two at Northwestern Medical Center, and a woman in her 50s in Windham County, being treated at Cheshire Medical Center.
To date, the Health Department has identified 49 positive cases of COVID-19 in Vermont.
That area of the hospital has now been repurposed to house COVID-19 patients, including the two patients that just tested positive for the illness. The former ICU, now turned COVID-19 treatment area has a capacity to treat up to seven patients.
“In recent weeks, NMC has been preparing for the eventuality that there would be cases of COVID-19 in our community,” said Dr. John Minadeo, NMC’s Chief Medical & Quality Officer. “Important steps have been taken to reduce possibilities of exposure within the facility and properly care for patients who may have this virus. Our preparations and processes have served us well.”
“As these are our first known positive cases in our community, we are providing you this information. Out of respect for patient privacy, no further patient information on these cases will be shared at this time,” Billings said in a written statement.
“While NMC is well prepared for the first wave of COVID-19 positive patients, we are naturally concerned about the possibility of large volumes of patients arriving in short time frames, so we greatly appreciate community efforts to flatten the curve such as social distancing,” said Dr. Minadeo. “We encourage everyone to take the simple steps of washing their hands, coughing into their elbows, and staying home if you are sick.”
Medical workers are asking those who think they may be ill to contact their medical provider by phone before coming to the hospital so the hospital can be ready for their arrival. Only in immediate life-threatening situations should people report directly to the hospital.
The announcement at Northwestern Medical Center came about an hour after Vermont Governor Phil Scott added more restrictions to businesses throughout Vermont.
“In consultation with the Department of Health, the Governor has determined it is necessary to prohibit in-person operations at close-contact businesses, meaning those unable to comply with guidelines for social distancing. That’s why Governor Scott has directed gymnasiums, fitness centers, and similar exercise facilities, hair salons and barbers, nail salons, spas, and tattoo parlors to close all in-person operations no later than 8:00 p.m. on Monday, March 23,” the Governor’s spokesperson, Rebecca Kelly, wrote in a written statement Saturday morning.
“As I’ve said throughout this crisis, I will continue to act to slow the spread of this virus in Vermont because we must protect those at greatest risk of serious illness and ensure they can get the care they need when they need it,” said Governor Scott. “We will continue to make decisions based on science and guidance from our experts. I don’t make these decisions lightly and my heart goes out to these workers and small business owners who are feeling the negative effects.”
At this time, all other businesses not named may remain open, but must work to implement CDC and the Vermont Department of Health guidance related to COVID-19, including:
- Maintaining a distance of six feet between people
- Ensuring employees practice appropriate hygiene measures, including regular, thorough handwashing
- Ensuring that employees who are sick remain home
- Regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces
We’ll continue to report on this every changing situation online and in our County Courier print edition. Follow us on our Facebook page for updates as they become available.