The Vermont Department of Health on Saturday announced 20 new cases of coronavirus, including seven more residents of a Burlington nursing home that's been hard hit by the disease.
At least 12 elderly residents of the Burlington Health & Rehabilitation Center have now tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreak there was identified on Monday. The Pearl Street facility is home to about 90 total residents and rehab patients.
“All of us at the Health Department are deeply concerned with the news of these additional positive cases,” Health Commissioner Mark Levine said in a press release. “Unfortunately, this new coronavirus can be very serious, especially for vulnerable Vermonters, and we have seen long-term care facilities across the country struggle to contain the virus.”
The latest Health Department testing figures, which account for results received through Saturday afternoon, increase the statewide case total from 29 to 49. It is by far the largest jump since the first case was identified March 8 in Bennington County. The virus has now been detected in nine of Vermont's 14 counties.
So far, one health care worker, at Central Vermont Medical Center, has tested positive, according to the hospital. Two patients have died, including one at Burlington Health & Rehab.
The 20 new cases span at least five counties, though demographic details were only available for 16 patients. They range in age from a Chittenden County woman in her 20s to a Franklin County man older than 80.
Only three of the new patients announced Saturday are hospitalized, the Health Department said. None of the new nursing home patients have been transferred to a hospital.
Burlington Health & Rehab is now checking the temperature of all staff before allowing them inside the building, according to the Health Department.
Currently, 14 employees of Burlington Health & Rehab are quarantined, according to a spokesperson for its parent company, Genesis HealthCare. None have tested positive so far. The company is bringing in at least a dozen nurses next week to provide extra support.
“Our employees are the true heroes here,” Genesis spokesperson Lori Mayer wrote in an email. “We are truly humbled by their dedication and compassion during these difficult days.”
The virus has been found in patients across two floors where residents receive long-term care. Nine residents with COVID-19 remain at the nursing home in their existing rooms, in some cases with roommates, per health department guidelines, Mayer said.
The most recent departmental advisory states that “ideally” residents believed to have COVID-19 should be placed in a private room with a private bathroom.
“Room sharing might be necessary if there are multiple residents with known or suspected COVID-19 in the facility,” the March 20 advisory states. “As roommates of symptomatic residents might already be exposed, it is generally not recommended to separate them in this scenario.”
Testing in Vermont has been limited by a nationwide shortage of supplies. The state said it is prioritizing health care workers who are symptomatic, hospitalized patients, long-term care facility residents, and inmates. Just shy of 1,000 tests have been administered in Vermont, according to the Department of Health website.