From the CEO
Home stretch, last mile, red zone … choose your metaphor, but here in Vermont we are almost ready to return to life as we knew it before the pandemic.

Ready for summer barbecues and concerts? Excited to host friends you haven’t seen in more than a year? Eager for a cocktail party with no masks or social distancing?
I sure am.

We have been through so much already. Our collective patience and adherence to public health guidelines has made Vermont one of the safest and smartest places to be during COVID-19. Vermont’s vaccine program continues to be the most effective in the country. We have vaccinated 74.9 percent of the population. That is a staggering number. It means that 3 out of every 4 of us age 12 and above is vaccinated. Vermonters have stepped up in big ways to get us to where we are today. But we’re Vermonters, so it’s no surprise we’re going to do even better. Governor Scott and state health leaders have challenged us to get to 80 percent vaccinated to fully re-open and lift all COVID restrictions much sooner than planned.

To make this vision a reality, we have to keep up the good work and continue vaccinating Vermonters. We’re almost there. We’ve already vaccinated more than 412,000 and we need just 27,954 more of our friends and family to get the vaccine to achieve our goal.

Help reach the 80 percent goal by:

  • Getting vaccinated yourself. It is easy to get a dose, even on a walk-in basis. Visit the VDH website to make an appointment or learn where to find a shot right now.

  • Assisting friends and relatives. If you know people who have not made an appointment, help overcome the obstacle they have, whether it is a ride to the pharmacy or assistance with the website.

  • Following guidelines until they are lifted. As we move beyond the pandemic, we must continue the safety measures that have fueled our effective response until the rate of vaccination is high enough to safely resume normal life.

Thanks for your help in getting us there!
Legislative Update
by Devon Green
Vice President of Government Relations

…and, that’s a wrap! Despite its unprecedented nature, this session ended much like other sessions in the past—slowly, and then all at once. Legislators may come back in June to address the Governor’s veto of S.107, a bill concerning the confidentiality of certain juvenile records, and legislative leaders have reserved the right to bring back legislators in October. Otherwise, the next time we see the full legislative body, we will see actual bodies, real people instead of Zoom squares, as the legislature prepares to meet in person for the 2022 session.
Last Week
Budget: The House, Senate, and Governor all came together on H.439, the FY 22 state budget appropriating $7.35 billion, with $599 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds allocated. The budget also identified spending of ARPA funds for future years, including $250 million for the health, well-being and recovery of Vermonters, workforce development and business support. Other items in the budget include:
  • Funding for one year of free tuition for critical occupations, including allied health programs at CCV and nursing programs at Vermont State Colleges
  • $2.27 million in funding to continue nursing and primary care scholarships
  • $3.9 million in Delivery System Reform investments to the All-Payer Accountable Care Organization Model, including health information technology projects and the Longitudinal Care Home Health Program
  • Health care coverage for pregnant individuals and children who do not qualify for Medicaid due to immigration status
  • $600,000 for a mental health mobile crisis unit pilot in Rutland
  • Prohibition on pharmacy benefit managers from requiring certain reporting on 340B prescription drugs or restricting access to a pharmacy network or change reimbursement rates based on a pharmacy’s participation in the 340B program
  • Extension of the Health Care Workforce Strategic Plan to December 1, 2021
  • Task Force on Affordable, Accessible Health Care to present recommendations by December 1, 2021 on expanding access to affordable health care in Vermont
Nurse Licensure Compact: S.48, which allows Vermont to enter the Nurse Licensure Compact, passed the House and the Senate. VAHHS thanks the legislators who voted in favor of this important part of health care workforce development. 
Forensic Care Working Group: The House passed an amended version of S.3 which creates a working group to examine gaps in the current mental health and criminal justice system to improve public safety and address treatment needs for those who are incompetent to stand trial or adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity. 
Racism as a public health emergency: The Senate voted in favor of J.R.H. 6, a resolution previously passed by the House, declaring racism a public health emergency in Vermont and resolving to eradicate systemic racism throughout the state.
Next Week
We’ll have a session wrap-up with a summary of all the bills that have passed. In the meantime, go out and get some sun!
In the News
Scott: Restrictions dropped once 80% of eligible Vermonters start vaccine process

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has committed to lifting all pandemic-related restrictions and mandates once 80% of eligible residents have started the vaccination process.
In a news briefing Friday, the governor said that would include eliminating current capacity limits, business curfews and mask mandates for everyone, including unvaccinated people. The state is currently set to roll back restrictions on Independence Day under the final phase of its reopening plan.

"If we hit 80%, I'll lift any remaining restrictions and mandates that day," Scott said. "Admittedly, this is an ambitious goal for most, and to be honest most states won't come close to reaching it — but I believe Vermont can."
Vermont hospitals invest in cybersecurity education, partner with FBI
Mountain Times

Cybersecurity is a key focus for Vermont’s system of non-profit hospitals as they gathered last week with experts to discuss threats and mitigation efforts in response to increased cyberterrorism activity across the globe. Hospital leaders included CEOs, chief medical officers, chief information officers, communications experts, emergency department leaders and others.

The group, convened by the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (VAHHS) featured American Hospital Association’s John Riggi, who is senior advisor for cybersecurity and risk for the American Hospital Association and a highly decorated FBI veteran, and Samantha Baltzersen, Federal Bureau of Investigation’s cyber squad supervisor at its Albany headquarters.
UVM Health Network sees signs of financial progress
Vermont Business Magazine

As the response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues, The University of Vermont Health Network has seen some progress toward its financial recovery, thanks to state and federal provider relief funding, cost control measures, and an increase in patient visits for necessary health care services during the month of March 2021. The Network announced today financial results from the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2021 and for the year-to-date of the fiscal year – which runs from October 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021.

While financial challenges persist, the Network’s current year-to-date financial position includes a positive 1.4 percent, or $17.4 million, margin. This is thanks to the results of its second quarter, ending March 31, 2021, where a positive 9 percent, or $60.9 million, margin was achieved, due largely to $83 million in one-time state and federal provider relief funding.
Vermont House to 'hit pause' until 2022 on legislation banning guns from hospitals

The issue of guns in hospitals has been shelved by the Vermont House of Representatives, which declined this session to take up a proposed ban.
While the Senate passed the legislation, S.30, in mid-March, it remained untouched in the House Committee on Judiciary. Now, leadership in the upper chamber has said that, although the proposal will not cross the finish line this year, it will be carefully considered in the second year of the biennium.

The bill would also set up a legislative study of whether to prohibit firearms from the Capitol Complex in Montpelier.

Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, told VTDigger in a recent interview she waited until 2022 to examine the Senate’s proposal to give lawmakers the chance to interrogate the issue of gun violence in the state and try to come up with potential solutions.
Medical experts across our region are studying people with lingering COVID-19 symptoms

Medical experts have learned a lot about coronavirus over the past year.
Now, many doctors in our region are working to figure out why some people have lingering symptoms months after getting sick.

Individuals with post-acute COVID-19 syndrome have become known as COVID-19 long-haulers.

Bethany Caruso is among them. After being diagnosed with COVID-19 in March of last year, she is still dealing with symptoms.

"Anything above walking, my lungs felt like they were going to explode," Caruso said.
Due to lingering effects, Caruso had to give up CrossFit, she says it has been nearly impossible to do cardio workouts lately.

She's also experienced a change of taste and brain fog, which has impacted her during work.
VDH COVID-19 Update: Vermont number one for vaccinations, anyone 12+ is eligible
Vermont Business Magazine

Vermont continues to lead the nation, and is among world leaders, in vaccination rate. And now anyone 12 or older can get vaccinated in the state regardless of their residency. There are many sites around the state or at pharmacies that allow for walk-ins with no registration necessary. While Vermont's regular vaccine allotment will not change, it has been successful in obtaining thousands more Pfizer (2,340) and one-shot Johnson & Johnson (1,000) vaccines.
COVID-19 cases in Vermont and across the region are down, but there were two more deaths here for a statewide total of 254. Meanwhile, the Canadian border does not appear that it will open soon. Governor Scott hopes it will open sometime in mid-summer.

Sanders holds hearing on shortage of health care workers

Vermont Senate Declares Racism a Public Health Emergency
Seven Days

The Vermont Senate on Thursday declared racism a public health emergency, vowing to redouble its efforts to eradicate systemic inequities for people of color that the pandemic has laid bare.

The joint resolution passed easily, advancing on a 29-1 vote to a final reading of the bill. The House had previously approved it by a 135-8 vote.

Sen. Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) introduced the resolution by saying that systemic racism was “inextricably intertwined" with COVID-19, citing a “disproportionate negative impact of the pandemic on people of color."

Hardy cited infection rates of nearly 13 percent among people of color compared to 6 percent for white residents. She also highlighted two outbreaks — one in Winooski affecting a New American community and one in Shoreham among Jamaican agricultural workers — that she said illustrate the connection between the pandemic and economic status.
Valley News: Public health experts in no hurry to get rid of their own masks

In spite of being fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Dr. Joshua White said he continues to wear a mask when he’s in public, such as while grocery shopping.
In such venues, White, the chief medical officer of Gifford Medical Center, said he doesn’t know who else has been fully vaccinated and who hasn’t.

“I want to make unvaccinated people continue to feel comfortable,” White said in a phone interview.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidelines last week, indicating that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in public indoors, except in certain settings such as in hospitals or when required by law or regulation. The CDC previously relaxed mask requirements for outdoor settings.

Hospitals in the News