Dear Grace Cottage Community Members,
Each new day of the COVID-19 crisis brings so many changes. However, what never changes is Grace Cottage’s 71-year commitment to delivering quality and compassionate care to all members of our community, whether they be our employees, lifelong residents of the area, people who have moved here more recently, or second home owners. We are here for you.
We continue to be extremely vigilant, given the high level of COVID-19 activity just a few hours away in the New York City area. To date, we have had only three patients test positive, all of them remaining well enough to be quarantined at home. Our robust precautions allowed us to test them in an essentially risk-free manner to our employees and other patients, in our drive-up testing area. As of this writing, there are 11 positive cases of COVID-19 in Windham County.
We continually refine and adjust measures to protect our community. I’d like to bring you up to date on what’s changed since my message of March 24:
- In collaboration with the medical division of the National Guard Civil Support Team, The Vermont Department of Health has initiated a drive-up testing site on the campus of Landmark College in Putney, VT, open 8 AM to 3 PM, seven days a week, until further notice. This site provides testing for those who have received a referral from a medical provider. Due to the state’s improved access to test kits, health care providers are now able to refer people with mild to moderate symptoms for testing; this represents a relaxing of more stringent former protocols. If testing is appropriate, our providers will send an electronic order to the National Guard in Putney which will allow the patient to go directly to Landmark College for testing.
- Call your primary care provider if you feel you need a test. The Vermont Department of Health website (www.vermonthealth.gov) is a great resource and the Centers for Disease Control has a helpful symptoms and testing checklist: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/index.html
- We are scheduling patients in our clinic and for outpatient rehab, lab, and x-ray services who have a compelling reason to be seen. All other patients are being offered the option to have telephone or video-based meetings in their homes, rather than a face-to-face meeting. Of course, our Emergency Department is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for more acute issues.
- The Grace Cottage Family Health clinic continues to be divided into two sections in order to protect the health of both employees and patients.
- The respiratory illness section has a negative-pressure air handling system that prevents recirculation of air to the rest of the building. All staff are wearing full personal protective equipment and all patients wear masks.
- Other patients without respiratory illnesses whom providers want to see face-to-face are seen in a separate area of our clinic. Even in this low-risk clinic, all patients, as well as all nurses and providers who have direct contact with a patient, are wearing protective masks.
- Grace Cottage Hospital continues to maintain negative-pressure rooms that can be used to treat patients who require hospital inpatient care for suspected COVID-19 illness. Should a COVID-19 patient develop severe illness requiring critical care, the patient would be transferred to another healthcare facility with an ICU.
- We are holding as many of our necessary internal meetings as possible via video-based technology enabling remote attendance. We continue to educate and train our employees about screening, testing, and treating COVID-19.
- Our Messenger Valley Pharmacy continues to be closed to customer foot traffic in the store until further notice Curbside service, deliveries to surrounding towns, and mail service for prescription and over-the-counter needs is available (802-365-4117). Hours of operation are 8-6 Monday-Friday and 8-2 on Saturday.
What can you do to help those on the front lines at Grace Cottage?
- We are truly honored and humbled by the outpouring of support from our community, near and far. We have been receiving charitable donations via our website and through checks in the mail. This support is so crucial, now more than ever. Our expenses to provide care and to be prepared on the front lines of this fight against COVID-19 greatly exceed our current revenues. At the same time, we have made a commitment to our employees not to lay off anyone due to this pandemic, if possible. We recognize that many of our employees are now the sole breadwinners in their households because we are one of the very few businesses still open in the West River Valley. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank everyone for their generosity during this extremely challenging time.
- If you have a supply of surgical masks or N95 masks and would like to donate them, please call (802) 365-9109 for mailing or drop-off instructions. Thank you to our many community members who are making and donating homemade facemasks. Our front-line staff members are using medical-grade surgical and N95 masks when working directly with patients, but some other employees who are not directly on the “front lines” are using these masks and they’re so greatly appreciated.
For all of us, our best chance of putting this pandemic behind us and for keeping ourselves healthy will come from the following:
- Please practice strict social distancing. Don’t visit with those who live outside your home, and stay six feet apart from everyone with whom you come into contact outside of your household.
- Limit trips to public spaces as much as possible, and keep at least six feet from others at all times.
- When you make trips to get necessary items such as groceries, try to take advantage of take-out services as much as possible.
- Carry and use hand sanitizer after touching gas pumps, using credit cards, and other surfaces touched by others; wash your hands thoroughly when you return home.
Finally, I encourage you to do all that you can to stay mentally healthy during this time, as well as physically healthy. Accept that there are events that are beyond your control, and try not to get caught up in the flurry of alarming news (that’s how ads are sold, after all) that’s vying for your attention. Instead, take this opportunity, if you can, to reset and refresh:
- Look through old photographs with your family and share the memories of the occasions during which these were taken.
- Reach out, via phone or Internet, with longtime friends with whom you’ve lost touch.
- Take a long walk in Nature and/or adapt relaxation techniques that you might never have tried before; make sure to exercise, sleep, and eat well.
- Pick up (or download) that book you’ve always meant to read but never had the time.
- Try to keep a positive attitude and share it with others.
Again, on behalf of all of us who work at Grace Cottage and all of our patients, thank you so much for your outpouring of support. In so very many ways, it’s what keeps us going.
President & CEO
Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital