vets home covid

Ten staff members at the Vermont Veterans Home and one resident have tested positive in January for COVID-19.

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BENNINGTON — A cluster of COVID cases has been reported among staff at Vermont Veterans Home, and one resident is hospitalized with the virus.

Chief Executive Officer Melissa Jackson said in an email that a total of 10 staff members have tested positive since Jan. 2, along with the one resident.

“We have been meeting regularly with the Vermont Department of Health, as well as providing regular updates to the family members of our residents,” Jackson said.

According to information on the Veterans Home website, the 10 positive tests for staff were spread over seven different daily notifications since Jan. 2. The positive test for a resident was posted on Sunday.

VISITS ALLOWED

While Jackson said residents of two wings at the facility are in quarantine in their rooms and not leaving for meals or activities, “all residents continue to receive visitors regardless of their quarantine status.”

But, she added, “We are strongly encouraging visitors, especially those who are immuno-compromised or at a high risk of contracting COVID, to hold off on visiting.”

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Any family member who chooses not to visit will be offered video conferencing and telephone calls, she said.

Jackson said all visitors are required to pass COVID-19 screening and always wear a facial covering for in-person visits.

Staff, meanwhile, receive PCR [polymerase chain reaction swab] testing twice weekly, as do the residents on quarantine. When a resident or staff member exhibits symptoms, they are given rapid antigen testing and PCR testing, Jackson said.

VACCINATION RATES

Currently, 96 percent of residents are vaccinated against COVID-19, Jackson said, and 84 percent of the facility staff. That includes 78 percent of direct care licensed nurse assistants and 74 percent of direct care nurses being vaccinated.

“Staff must be vaccinated or have an approved religious or medical exemption,” she said. “If they do not fall into one of these three categories, CMS [The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] will fine VVH for noncompliance. We are not at risk of receiving fines.”

The vaccination figures are up from the 72.7 percent reported during an outbreak at the home in late August. The percentages also were lower at that time for front-line nursing staff — reported at 56.45 percent of nursing aids and 47.82 percent of nurses.

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com


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