CEO Coronavirus Update – February 9, 2021

| News

We are delighted to be administering first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for anyone age 75 and older who lives, works, or accesses primary care in Vermont. We are providing second doses for group 1A today (healthcare providers and first-responders), and we begin vaccinating the general public, age 75 and up, tomorrow. If you know of someone in this age category in our area who hasn’t yet received their first dose, please encourage them to call 855-722-7878 or go to the Vermont Department of Health’s website to schedule an appointment at Grace Cottage. We still have availability for this Thursday, February 11, as well as Wednesday, February 17, and Wednesday, February 24. Appointments must be scheduled through the Vermont Department of Health, but if someone you know needs help with signing up, have them call 802-365-4331 and we will do our best to assist with this process. Signing up for a vaccine via the state hasn’t been without its challenges, but we encourage everyone age 75+ to be both persistent and patient.

Within the next few weeks, the Vermont Department of Health will open up vaccine appointments for people who are 70 and older who live, work, or access primary care in Vermont and then to age 65 and up. After these groups have been vaccinated, Vermonters with specific chronic conditions will follow.

No matter what your age, if you live, work or access primary care in Vermont, you can now get ready for your vaccination by creating an account on the Vermont Department of Health website Portal. I strongly urge you to do this, to save time and effort later. I also recommend signing up for the Vermont Department of Health’s weekly COVID-19 e-mail updates so that you will stay current on the progress of the vaccination process here in Vermont. And keep checking our newly-redesigned website for the most recent updates here at Grace Cottage.

We hope to get as many shots into arms as quickly as possible. I’m extremely proud of all the work that our employees have done to make the vaccination process here as smooth, and efficient as possible. Our Community Wellness Center, also known as the Heins Building, has been redesigned in order to provide indoor vaccines and outdoor COVID-19 drive-up testing (all by appointment). Meanwhile, we continue to provide our usual high-quality medical care at Grace Cottage Family Health, in the hospital and ER, in outpatient physical and occupational therapy, in lab and diagnostic imaging services, and at our retail pharmacy. Please do not forego your regular medical care, including your annual physical, because of concerns about the pandemic. We’ve had a year to develop and fine-tune our pandemic-prevention-practices, so we’re experts. I can assure you that it’s safe to come here, especially now that 92% of our employees have received two doses of the vaccine (the highest percentage of employees vaccinated in any Vermont hospital, and perhaps highest of any hospital in the nation!).

It has been frustrating for all of us here to have to tell our patients that they must be patient, awaiting their turn in the rollout of the vaccine, which can seem, at times, to be moving at a snail’s pace. I have to keep reminding myself that “slow and steady wins the race,” but the problem is that we’re being pursued in this race; it’s not just the tortoise and the hare, but there’s a “tiger” behind us — the virus and its mutations. Time is of the essence – throughout the world, we MUST get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. The news that vaccines will be increasingly available is very encouraging.

And, when all is said and done, Vermont is doing extremely well in the COVID arena. According to Johns Hopkins University, Vermont has the nation’s lowest per capita death rate, ahead of even remote Hawaii and sparsely-populated Alaska, and this is with much higher death rates in our neighboring states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York. We are not an island, but we have long tended to be experts at social distancing and in this rural, sparsely populated state, we feel responsible for our neighbors, so the state’s mantra seems to be working for us: “masks on faces, six-foot spaces, and uncrowded places.”

It’s hard to believe that this Friday will be my third anniversary as President and CEO at Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital. The time has flown by and I look forward to the years ahead. This is a truly remarkable organization, and what inspires me every day is the dedication and professionalism of Grace Cottage’s employees, and the loyalty and devotion of our patients to our providers and our services. “Devoted” isn’t usually a word that one associates with a patient’s relationship with a hospital and health care center, but it’s certainly the case here, and these people – patients and employees – are what make Grace Cottage unique. I am proud that we are all in this together, caring for you and for the rest of our community.

Doug DiVello
President & CEO
Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital