A Message from the CEO
As we continue to battle COVID-19, it is important that each of us tends to our own health. This includes going for walks and getting exercise, as well as finding ways to relax and refresh during such a stressful time.

Taking care of ourselves also means going to the doctor, clinic or hospital – and yes, it is both safe and smart to do that when you are sick or need care.

Vermont’s health care providers—like those throughout the country—have changed a lot to respond to COVID-19. It is important to know that those changes ensure our readiness. Hospitals and their affiliated physician offices, clinics and practices are open and prepared to welcome and treat patients safely.

Screening procedures and visiting policies have been adopted to minimize the spread of infection. Health care workers and visitors are wearing masks to protect themselves and others. New tents and triage sites help with proper isolation of patients who may be infected. And social distancing measures ensure we maintain the buffer required to prevent virus transmission.

Despite hospitals and physicians being available and safe, we know that many people are delaying or avoiding needed care, including for serious symptoms like chest pain or sudden loss of balance, that demand urgent attention. We urge you not to risk your health and get the care you need. Additionally, if a family member or loved one is reluctant to get care, help them realize there is no need to steer clear of hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices. Doing so could cause illnesses to advance and become much more serious. 

Patients with chronic conditions should continue their ongoing care, whether in the office or via telemedicine. Prenatal and urgent care is still available. We should all call our doctors to address a new concern. And hospital emergency rooms are open and safe for those experiencing symptoms like shortness of breath, trouble walking, slurred speech, bad cuts and burns, or possibly broken bones.

Even as they manage COVID-19, providers throughout our state stand ready to do what they have always done: deliver safe, effective care to Vermonters.

At this uncertain time, it is vital we pay attention to the health of ourselves and our families. Vermont’s system of care has changed because of COVID-19, as so many things have, but it remains strong and safe—and ready to care for you and those you love.
Stay healthy out there, and enjoy the warmer weather coming our way!
Jeff Tieman
VAHHS President and CEO
Legislative Update
by Devon Green
Vice President of Government Relations

This time of year usually marks the all-out sprint towards the end of the legislative session, but, as has happened elsewhere, COVID-19 turned the legislative schedule on its head. Due to extending the filing of tax returns and loss of anticipated revenue, the Scott administration and legislative leadership look to enact a second budget adjustment act for FY20 as well as just a first quarter budget for FY21 in May. Additionally, the Scott administration and legislature will have to determine how to spend the $1.25 billion in federal funding from the CARES Act. As with our other COVID-19 related efforts, this is shaping up to be much more of a marathon than a sprint.

Last Week
Essential Workers Grant Program:  The Senate passed  S.346 , a $60 million program to provide an extra $600-$1000 per month for workers providing essential services that may expose them to COVID-19. The program applies to all nursing home and home health employees and any other essential employees who earn less than $25 per hour. The House will begin reviewing the bill next week. For more details on the bill, go here .

COVID-19 Coverage for the Uninsured:  VAHHS testified last week on a new program put out by the federal government that will reimburse all testing and treatment for individuals with a COVID-19 diagnosis who do not have health care coverage. For more information, go  here .

This Week
Telehealth:  The Senate Health and Welfare and House Health Care committees will be focusing on telehealth—what has worked during this crisis and what needs to be preserved. We support continued expansion of telehealth and very much appreciate the health care committees’ efforts in this area.
U.S. Census Reminder
If you haven’t yet responded to the 2020 US Census, now’s the time: go to  my2020census.gov . Responses to the 2020 Census shape decisions about how billions of dollars in federal funds flow into communities each year for the next 10 years for critical services. And Vermont is currently about 10 percentage points behind the national average for self-responding. Health care, emergency response, schools and education programs, and roads and bridges are all impacted by the 2020 Census. 

Census results help hospitals, health clinics, and health care services by:
  • Guiding decisions on where hospitals and clinics are needed
  •  Determining block grant funding for the construction of hospitals and health care clinics
  •  Allocating resources for health care facilities so they can effectively support the populations they serve and helping hospitals know how many people they may need to serve
  •  Providing support for Medicaid insurance for low-income populations and Medicare Part B insurance for people 65 and older
  •  Directing funds for maternal and child health services, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  •  Dedicating funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment programs
  •  Determining support for HIV emergency relief programs
  •  Supporting planning for health care programs for Native Americans and Alaska Natives
In the News
Latest Updates on the Coronavirus

As health authorities and hospitals address the growing spread of the COVID-19 virus, VTDigger is keeping up with all of the latest news and information you need to understand the magnitude of the crisis. Here you'll find resources for coping with the coronavirus outbreak, and updates on financial impacts and volunteer efforts.

UVMHN losing $152 million, cutting pay and expenses to save $25 million
Vermont Business Magazine

The University of Vermont Health Network today announced sweeping measures to address staggering revenue losses directly related to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many hospital systems across the country facing similar negative financial forecasts, The UVM Health Network is taking quick action to preserve access to care for the region. With projected network losses for the fiscal year estimated to be $152 million, the UVM Health Network is immediately reducing the base salary of leaders, eliminating employer retirement benefit contributions to leaders, and instituting a hiring freeze at all Network affiliates. This loss is lessened by $37.9 million in federal government funding that has come to the UVM Health Network.
Vermont aims for 7,000 virus tests per week and will expand contact tracing
My Champlain Valley

With an eye on continuing to reopen the state, Vermont officials said Wednesday will ramp up testing for COVID-19 and expand contact tracing efforts over the next few weeks.

Gov. Phil Scott said that increasing the number of people tested for the virus is key to identifying and isolating outbreaks that could slow the state’s approach to letting people return to work.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine says he wants to triple the number of people tested to about 7,000 a week. He said his team will target specific groups in stages.

“Ever since the start of this pandemic, as a state, we have worked aggressively to ensure the testing supplies needed to maintain stable and consistent access for testing sites across the state,” he said. “We have sought to focus on vulnerable groups, to be strategic, evidence-based and science-driven, to try to improve on lengthy quarantines for asymptomatic people.”

UVMMC reassigns some employees to support COVID-19 response
My NBC 5

Some Vermont hospital employees are now taking on new jobs while their employer's focus has shifted to the COVID-19 response.

"I'm doing my part," said Amy Marra, who normally works as an office assistant in a clinic at the University of Vermont Medical Center, helping people set appointments then checking them in.

Now, Marra is working at a screening checkpoint inside one of the entrances at UVMMC, making sure any hospital employees coming to work have proper badges and masks on. Marra's nurse counterpart at the checkpoint ensures those folks don't also have a fever.

"When something like this occurs, we all have to be willing to do whatever it takes to make things run and keep things open," Marra told NECN and NBC10 Boston.

Marra is one of 70 UVMMC staffers who suddenly have new clinical or non-clinical responsibilities because of the pandemic, according to medical center leadership

NMC expands telemedicine services amid pandemic
St. Albans Messenger

The Northwestern Medical Center (NMC) announced recently the extension of its telemedicine services in order to provide medical service remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement from the hospital, the hospital’s vice president of community relations, Jonathan Billings, said NMC’s telemedicine services had been met with a warm reception from the public.

“Our patients are telling us that telemedicine is proving to be incredibly convenient,” Billings wrote. “They are finding visits easy to schedule, wait times are minimal, and they don’t have to worry about transportation.”
The Bright Side: Therapists offer free counseling for essential workers

In the Upper Valley, it’s hard to find a therapist.

Lisa Gardner, a therapist in Norwich, said she often hears from people who’ve made calls to upwards of 15 therapists around the area, without finding any openings.

But when the coronavirus crisis hit, those numbers began to concern Gardner more than ever.

She was worried about health care workers on the front lines of the outbreak, doing dangerous work for long hours. She knew those people might need help, and knew they wouldn’t have the time to make 15 phone calls to find it.

Gardner and a few of her colleagues launched a service to volunteer their time with free therapy sessions for essential workers in the area who could use support.

They offer 30-minute video sessions with licensed therapists for nurses, doctors, EMTs, nursing home workers, and other essential workers, as well as people who have become unemployed because of Covid-19. Sessions can be scheduled within 24 hours.

SVHC accepts delivery of cloth masks from Orvis
Bennington Banner

Orvis, a luxury clothing retailer with headquarters in Sunderland, answered Southwestern Vermont Health Care's call for personal protective equipment with a shipment of 750 cloth masks.

"This is such a generous show of support for our work here," said Southwestern Vermont Health Care's President and CEO Tom Dee. "We want to thank Orvis for helping us keep our staff and their families safe during this unprecedented time."

Personal protective equipment has been in short supply nationwide, leaving many hospitals to rely on community members and businesses to supply crucial equipment.

"Doctors, nurses, first responders, and others on the front line are playing such an important and heroic role in the world at this time," said Simon Perkins, Orvis's chief operating officer. "As a dedicated member of the Vermont community committed to giving back, we feel fortunate to be able to do our part to support them."

Hospital star inspires popular Facebook group
Rutland Herald

A star in the night sky can still inspire hope during a pandemic, even if it’s a man-made star on the roof of Rutland Regional Medical Center, which in turn inspired a Facebook group that attracted about 25,700 members in a month.
A 22-foot-tall metal, illuminated star that is usually put on display above the fifth floor on the northwest roof during the holidays. A month ago, the star was brought back out at the suggestion of a longtime hospital employee.
Howie Stratton, a service technician, said he was driving to work with his wife, MeriBeth Stratton, shortly after the state started issuing orders intended to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

State of Vermont Resources
"Vermonters are With You" Resources
The Coronavirus is causing anxiety and stress for many Vermonters, as we are concerned about the risk of serious illness for ourselves and our loved ones. The Vermont Department of Mental Health has created a set of resource sheets that can be used with patients, staff and other members of our communities as they navigate these troubling times. Find them here on our website: