From the President and CEO
VAHHS CEO Jeff Tieman on COVID-19

Fewer than 10 days ago, COVID-19 wasn’t even a commonly known term, let alone one that dominated our media coverage and email inboxes.
Last week, we had our first patient testing positive in Vermont at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. Then we saw another at UVM Medical Center in Burlington. Meanwhile, the states around us saw their numbers rise. Within days, we were facing a massive public health challenge that affects everything—from our daily lives and activities to the capacity of our health care system.

Here in Vermont, I am proud of the way we have come together to make tough, but necessary decisions that help keep us all safe and healthy. It is essential to reduce all the risks we can. Exercising an abundance of caution is the best way to help slow the spread of COVID-19. It is important to “flatten the curve” of the epidemic—taking steps to prevent too many cases at one time, which can overwhelm hospitals and other health services.
We rely on our health care workforce every day to save lives and keep us healthy. Now we are seeing in a new way how swiftly and dramatically they can be called into action. 

Learn more about COVID-19 here , and check out these recent news stories about national and state response:

Legislative Update
by Devon Green
Vice President of Government Relations

If you’ve ever wondered what the opposite of social distancing looks like, the Vermont State House is a good approximation. It has hundreds of people crammed together in very small rooms with very little circulation. Normally, this is slightly uncomfortable, but the atmosphere shifted to a palpable level of anxiety as the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 was now a pandemic. The legislature reacted quickly, asking us what tools hospitals needed to respond to COVID-19. VAHHS worked with all the other provider groups with a  list of requests , and the House passed out a bill,  H.742,  addressing COVID-19 on Friday evening—about 30 hours after their initial request definitely the fastest I have ever seen them move on a bill. 

The legislature also took the wise step of shutting down for this week and postponing the crossover deadline. This means that all bills are still alive, even if they haven’t made it out of their committees. Unfortunately, this also means that the COVID-19 bill still has to go through the Senate before it can get to the governor’s desk. Sen. Lyons, the Chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, has said they will work on this bill this week.

A special thank you to our legislators, particularly Speaker Mitzi Johnson, Rep. Bill Lippert and the entire House Health Care Committee, and Jennifer Carbee, the lawyer from Legislative Council, who spent much, if not all, of Thursday night drafting the bill and consulting with all of the health care provider representatives. Their rapid response is much appreciated.

Another huge thank you to Scott administration staff members. We urged them to declare a state of emergency, and they did so on Friday. You can find the entire executive order here , with a summary below. We will be working with the administration all week to help address hospital concerns and priorities.  

Click here for a breakdown of the federal powers under the national state of emergency and the state powers under the Vermont state of emergency.

Most importantly, thank you to all the hospitals and health care providers who are working around the clock on this issue.