CEO Coronavirus Update – October 6, 2020

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It’s very hard to believe that my last Message to the Community was written and sent more than two months ago; July 21st seems like it was eons ago in some respects, and like yesterday in others. If you’re like me, you take a deep breath before you look at the news in the morning; are we on a roller coaster or in spinning tea cups today? I don’t mean to imply that what our nation is going through should be taken lightly, but 2020 has certainly turned out to be a year that none of us will ever forget, for so many reasons.

This virus knows no boundaries and what we’ve learned is that the advice given from the very beginning of this pandemic continues to hold true – mask wearing, handwashing, and social distancing continue to be our most powerful weapons in the fight against coronavirus, at least until a vaccine is developed and widely distributed.

I’m pleased to say that Vermont’s positivity rate for Covid-19 continues to be the lowest in the nation, and there have been no new Covid-19 deaths in Vermont since July 30th. 165,000 tests have been administered throughout the state of Vermont since March, with 1,817 positive tests as of yesterday. Governor Phil Scott mandated the wearing of masks in indoor and outdoor public spaces, effective on August 1st, and we have observed that people in our area seem to be very compliant.

Here at Grace Cottage, we have done more than 1,300 drive-up and respiratory clinic tests, with only 16 positives since we first started administering tests in March. We have had no positive cases of Covid-19 among our hospital patients – every patient is tested for the virus when they arrive and cared for in our Covid-19 wing until their tests results come back negative. We continue to use the PCR test exclusively, taking our guidance from Vermont’s Department of Health, who has expressed a lack of confidence in the results of the antigen-based rapid test method.

Thanks to the fact that Vermont has low levels of the virus and there is a great deal of pent-up demand for healthcare by patients who stayed home, as instructed, during the spring and early part of the summer, we have been caring for a higher volume of patients in August and September than during the same time period in prior years. We are continuing to take many measures to keep patients safe, including cleaning exam rooms between visits, screening everyone who enters the building, and limiting visits to hospital patients to one per day. Our hospital, all outpatient services, and retail pharmacy are fully open. With many second homeowners making Vermont their full-time home, and with new residents buying homes and relocating here, we have been happy to welcome a large influx of new patients. We have added a pediatric nurse practitioner, Cynthia Howes, who is seeing patients ages birth to 18, along with Dr. Elizabeth Linder, so we now have pediatric coverage five days a week.

It has never been more important to get your flu shot than it is this year – especially as winter, and the flu season, is fast approaching, I cannot stress this enough. We were very pleased that 180 people came to our three-hour Flu Clinic at Grace Cottage Family Health on Saturday, September 26, and flu shot recipients were impressed with how smoothly everything flowed.

I want to thank everyone who helped support our spring and summer events this year. Here’s a recap:

  • Our 11th annual Spring into Health 5K was a virtual event in May, with 144 participants, more than any other year. We posted submitted photos on Grace Cottage’s Facebook page, as they were emailed to us by walkers and runners, including pictures of a horse and some dogs that completed the event with their owners!
  • The 15th annual Tour de Grace was held on Saturday, June 27, and we were able to hold a safe, physically-distanced event for 93 riders of all ages.
  • Our 70th annual Hospital Fair Day became a virtual event and, thanks to everyone who supported Fair Day in a wide variety of ways (primarily through our Online Auction, which had 158 items, and through direct donations), we grossed $67,000, which was used for the purchase of new Stryker beds for the hospital. As you can see from the Facebook post below, our nurses were thrilled and so appreciative, and our patients will be too. We are so grateful for the outpouring of support that came when Fair Day had to be redesigned into a virtual event, and we hope to be able to be on the Townshend Common in person on August 7, 2021. Meanwhile, for a walk through memory lane, you can enjoy the photos of past Fair Days and Baby Parades by clicking here.
  • Postponed from June, our 11th annual Tee It Up for Health Golf Tournament was held this past weekend at Brattleboro Country Club. Safety was our top priority so, instead of a shotgun start, we scheduled staggered tee-times for the 29 teams, with no awards dinner or other opportunities for people to congregate in large groups. We grossed $39,000 at this event, thanks to the generosity of our many sponsors, golfers, and volunteers.

Hoping you stay well and safe,

Doug DiVello
President & CEO