Annual Meeting
87th Annual Meeting a Success!
This past week, over 120 health care leaders came together in-person for the first time since COVID-19 to discuss and tackle many of our more difficult health care challenges. It was incredibly nice to be together after such a long time apart. We are enormously proud of our work together over the past several years—making policy, collaborating and problem-solving over Zoom calls. There is really nothing, however, like being together again. We know Vermonters are in good hands with leaders so deeply committed to the health and wellbeing of the patients, families and communities they care for.

We were inspired by Dr. Melinda Estes, who gave our keynote address and shared her experiences since leaving Vermont 11 years ago. We were wowed by an account of the awesome work we are doing to support refugee families relocating in Vermont and we took a dive into the challenges our providers are facing after years of trauma and understaffing. These are not issues solved over a quick two-day conference, but we are bolstered by each other and recommitted to progress. You'll find detail about our program in VAHHS Update over the next few weeks. In the meantime, here's a look at the video that opened our conference. It includes voices and photos of the amazing health care workers who serve our state.
In the News
Major hospitals keeping mask mandates despite new CDC guidance

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revised its Covid-19 guidance to allow health care facilities in certain areas to drop mask mandates for patients, visitors and staff. But for the time being, the state’s largest medical providers, University of Vermont Health Network and Dartmouth-Hitchcock, are planning to keep mask requirements in place.

UVM Health Network, which includes UVM Medical Center, Central Vermont Medical Center and doctor’s offices scattered across the state, plans to continue requiring masks in patient-facing areas, according to Annie Mackin, a spokesperson for the organization.

Mackin said via email that the network has evaluated its policies based on CDC recommendations “as well as our own data and experiences.” There are currently 18 Covid patients at UVM Medical Center and three at Central Vermont Medical Center.

Vt. officials launch suicide prevention initiative

Suicides in Vermont have been on the rise and the state is launching a new effort to address the issue.

Facing Suicide includes a website with resources on education, support, and advocacy. It’s for people who are struggling and anyone who wants to help them.

“It’s really a campaign about understanding what are the risk factors, what do you do if you’re feeling like this yourself, what do you do if you’re worried about somebody you love? And also, what do the people say who have experienced this themselves about, what worked for them and how they want to be helped,” said Vermont Mental Health Deputy Commissioner Alison Krompf.

The website also includes information on how to safely store firearms, the leading cause of suicides.
With 26,000 shots given out, Vermont’s Omicron booster rollout trails previous campaigns

About 26,000 Vermonters have gotten the Omicron booster, putting the state on a slower pace than previous booster campaigns, according to data from the state Department of Health.

Vermont pharmacies, health providers and walk-in clinics began offering the booster, also called the bivalent vaccine, to the general population three weeks ago. In 2021, more than 100,000 people got the booster in the first three weeks after Vermont opened eligibility to high-risk people and people 65 and older.

Anne Sosin, a health equity researcher at Dartmouth College, said it was still “relatively early” in the campaign, especially since people who have recently contracted Covid are recommended to wait until their immunity wears off.
Vt. booster clinics continue; vaccine info available in 16 languages

Vermont health officials continue to offer the bivalent COVID vaccine at walk-in clinics around the state and there are now new informational videos in over a dozen languages.

The booster shot with the omicron-targeted formula is intended for people aged 12 and up who have already had two rounds of the original vaccine.

UVM Medical Center infectious disease expert Dr. Tim Lahey says that could change in the future but the reason now is based on the data. “Our best data shows that the original vaccine series works, saves lives, and some initial data suggest bivalent boosters can build on that protection by broadening antibody responses. That’s especially pertinent to our highest risk neighbors who might not make strong antibody responses,” he said.

COVID cases and hospital stays up, 4 deaths in September

The Vermont Department of Health reported September 21 that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations both increased but are still considered "Low." Total cases for the week increased by 31% to 581. Hospitalizations increased by 2 to 39 and have been edging up over the last three weeks (from 30).

There were 19 COVID-related fatalities in August and 4 so far in September, for a pandemic total of 719 (the VDH report could be updated as more data becomes available). Vermont has the lowest COVID death rate in the nation, at 115 per 100,000 population.

As of this report, there were a total of 14 outbreaks, with 11 in the school/childcare segment. This is a drop from last week when there were 25, with 17 in the school/childcare segment.

There were 12 deaths from COVID in Vermont in both June and July. June and July had the fewest COVID fatalities since July 2021 (2). The Delta variant then took off in August 2021.
Abortion by pill rose in 2020, Vermont data shows

The large majority of abortions in Vermont in 2020 were performed using medication rather than surgery, according to new data from the Department of Health.

Medication abortion is typically performed at home using a combination of two drugs: mifepristone and misoprostol. The method has risen in Vermont over the past 14 years, according to the data. But experts say that the pandemic created higher-than-ever demand for the pills, while loosened federal regulations have made the drugs more accessible.

The Vermont Department of Health reported there were 1,227 abortions in the state in 2020. That’s about 200 abortions per 1,000 live births, compared to 170 per 1,000 in 2019 — a slight uptick after years of decline.
‘This is an immediate need’: Vermont doesn’t have enough beds for juveniles involved in violence

Over the past two years, state and local officials say, Vermont has seen a disturbing trend: young people committing increasingly violent and serious crimes in the state.

It’s not clear exactly whether this phenomenon — which officials said often involves out-of-state individuals linked to the drug trade — has impacted overall crime rates or public safety in Vermont.

But it presents state leaders with a particularly vexing challenge: At a time when lawmakers are seeking to relax penalties for justice-involved youth, what should the state do with young people accused or convicted of violent crime?
Hospitals in the News
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