A lot can change, and has, in the six weeks since my last Message to the Community. It had been anticipated that the spread of Covid-19 would accelerate as winter approached and that has certainly been the case. What wasn’t predicted was the rapid rate at which numbers of cases in Vermont would increase – we’d all fervently hoped that our “brave little state” would be able to continue to keep our numbers low with physical distancing and widespread mask wearing.
As a result of the rapidly escalating number of cases in Vermont, Governor Phil Scott and his administration have said that they have no choice but to take strict new measures to suppress the virus. As a result, they have put the following Executive Orders in place:
- All non-essential travel to and from Vermont requires quarantine (7 days followed by a negative Covid-19 test or 14 days without a test).
- People from different households should not gather for any reason.
- All students returning home from college, whether in-state or out-of-state, must follow the quarantine guidelines above.
- All businesses should reinstate telecommuting or work-from-home procedures. In-person meetings are strongly discouraged.
- Bars and social clubs have been closed. Restaurants must close at 10 p.m.
Other restrictions were put into place on November 14, 2020; for more information about restrictions and availability of testing, go to www.healthvermont.gov/covid-19.
To summarize the Governor’s order:
- Multiple Household Social Gatherings Suspended. Attendance at all public and private social, recreational and entertainment gatherings, indoor and outdoor, including large social gatherings incidental to ceremonies, holiday gatherings, parties and celebrations, shall be limited to participation with only members of a single household.
- Restaurant Hours and Seating Limits. All restaurants must be closed to in-person dining at 10:00 p.m., but may provide food and beverage alcohol, including spirit-based drinks and malt and vinous product accompanying food orders through curbside pick-up, drive-through, and delivery services for off-site consumption after 10:00 p.m.
- Closure of Bars and Social Clubs. Businesses that serve food, or partner with entities who serve food, including bars and social clubs shall suspend operations; however, bars and social clubs may offer take-out, curbside pickup and delivery of beverage alcohol, including spirit-based drinks and malt and vinous product.
- Contact Log. All restaurants and other public accommodations which host organized non-essential activities shall maintain an easily accessible, legible log of all employees, customers, members and guests and their contact information.
- Recreational Sports. All recreational sports programs, including organized and/or informal recreational youth and adult league sports, practices, games and tournaments, are hereby suspended. This suspension shall not apply to school-sponsored sports activities which are subject to applicable Agency of Education Guidance.
- Returning College Students. All students who are returning home from a college or university, in-state or out of state, shall quarantine at home for fourteen days, with a test for COVID-19 strongly encouraged, or quarantine for no less than seven (7) days at which time they must be tested for COVID-19.
- Telework. All businesses, not-for-profit entities and municipal government entities in the State shall reinstitute, to the maximum extent possible, or reemphasize to the extent necessary, telecommuting or work from home procedures. In person meetings are strongly discouraged.
The safety measures and mitigation steps announced by the Governor are intended to prevent new infections and slow overall spread so that hospitals like ours are not overwhelmed. The next days and weeks are critical. Our hospital is better prepared than earlier this year, but we still need your help. That means you should consider connecting virtually instead of in-person whenever possible; replacing in-person holiday celebrations and gatherings; and advising family and friends to heed the guidelines because none of us are “exceptions.”
Hospitals too are taking difficult but important steps like limiting visitors to keep staff and patients safe. It is important to emphasize that taking care of your health needs should never take a back seat. We are here and ready to take care of you safely if you need to visit the emergency room or require an appointment with your provider. Do not ignore symptoms, and feel free to call Grace Cottage if you have questions about what to do in the event you are not feeling right….we are ready to assist and guide you.
On a personal note, I know that coming to terms with a second wave of COVID-19 in Vermont is difficult. With holidays fast approaching, we would all enjoy spending time with family and friends. But this year we all need to change our plans, and that means that this holiday season may not be the same, though it will be safer and kinder. Sharing love with our family members means protecting them from the virus.
Nonetheless, there is good news, and I want to emphasize the positive as we head into winter:
- Health professionals throughout the world know far more about Covid-19 than we did in the spring, and are better able to treat it.
- Testing is more widely and readily available, and this helps us to identify cases and to keep the virus from spreading.
- By now, everyone knows what to do to prevent the spread of the virus[, whether they choose to engage in these behaviors or not is another matter]: wear a mask; stay 6’ apart or more; wash your hands; limit travel to only essential trips; wipe down frequently-touched areas; quarantine and get tested if you’ve engaged in a virus-risky behavior; and isolate if you have symptoms.
- A vaccine is on the way and it is coming soon. There is indeed light at the end of the tunnel. Pandemics always end, but this one will end more quickly than most, thanks to the unprecedented financial and human resources that have been dedicated to the goal of rapidly developing and distributing an effective vaccine.
If you haven’t yet had your flu shot, please make arrangements to do it now. It’s one of the most important steps you can take toward keeping yourself as healthy as possible this winter. We will be holding our second and final Flu Shot Clinic on Saturday, November 21 between 9 a.m. and noon here at Grace Cottage Family Health, and all are welcome. Bring your insurance card, and minors under the age of 18 must come with a parent. Remembering those in need in our community, we’ll be accepting donations of canned and non-perishable food for the Townshend Food Shelf during the Flu Shot Clinic.
Please do everything that you can to stay as mentally and physically well as possible and know that better times are just around the corner. I appreciate your sacrifice and support. By working together and prioritizing public health, we were able to get through this when the situation looked dire back in the early spring, and we will do so again.
Hoping you stay well and safe,
Doug DiVello, President & CEO