BENNINGTON — The Vermont Veterans’ Home has returned to outdoor visitation in light of 11 persons testing positive for COVID-19, Melissa Jackson, the home’s executive director, said Friday.
Jackson said seven staff members and four residents have tested positive since Aug. 3.
“We’ve done internal contact tracing,” Jackson said. “It’s the same type of situation the community is seeing with the delta variant.”
The Vermont Department of Health said 12 cases had been reported at the home since Aug. 1.
Jackson said the Veterans’ Home does not know for certain that the delta variant, which spreads faster than previous variants of COVID-19, is the cause of the positive tests. But she strongly suspects that’s the case.
It’s frustrating, she said. “Unfortunately we’re seeing what the rest of the community is seeing.”
When and if the Veterans’ Home can resume indoor visits depends on future test results. As long as there are no positive cases identified in tests scheduled for Aug. 23 and Aug. 26, “we should start to be able to allow indoor visits for vaccinated residents,” Jackson said.
According to the Veterans’ Home’s website, one resident and three staff tested positive Friday; one resident on Thursday; and three residents on Tuesday.
Jackson could not go into specific details about medical conditions, but said generally that staff who tested positive are doing well, while residents have been experiencing some symptoms.
In addition to limiting visitation to outdoor settings, the home has changed the personal protective equipment that staff must wear, and has been in regular contact with the Vermont Department of Health, Jackson said.
“We’re doing what we call outbreak testing,” Jackson said, “every 3-to-5 days, all residents and staff.”
Overall, all but five of the home’s 103 residents are vaccinated, as is 72.7 percent of the staff. The percentages are lower for forward-facing nursing staff, Jackson said: 56.45 percent of nursing aids and 47.82 percent of nurses.
That’s far lower than Vermont’s nation-leading 85.2 percent of eligible persons who have started vaccinations, or the 80.6 percent of eligible Bennington County residents who have received at least one shot.
Bennett Truman, a spokesman for the Health Department, said the situation underscores the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
“The bottom line is that everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated should get their shot as quickly as possible,” Truman said. “The science is crystal clear — Vaccines remain highly effective at preventing severe illness and death. In addition, a vaccinated population is a critical defense against further community spread of the virus.”
The state remains convinced that patient- and resident-facing staff should be vaccinated, Truman added.
“People who are not vaccinated are the biggest drivers of virus spread – which allows for more cases, more outbreaks, more hospitalizations and more deaths,” he said. “This is of particular concern in facilities that provide care and services to people who are older and otherwise at higher risk of severe illness if they were to contract the virus.”
As of Friday, the Vermont Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard reported 12 new cases of the coronavirus in Bennington County on Friday, and 109 new cases in the past 14 days.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists Bennington County as having a “high” rate of transmission, with 67 cases and a rate of 188.89 per 100,000 people in the past seven days.
CovidActNow.org characterizes the county’s risk level as “very high,” with a daily new case rate of 29 per 100,000, an infection rate of 1.33 per 100,000, and a positive test rate of 6.0 percent.
Overall, Vermont reported 112 new cases on Friday, with a seven-day test positivity rate of 2.8 percent. The health department reported 26 persons hospitalized and 12 in intensive care.