Southwestern Vermont Medical Center Sees Increase of Positive COVID-19 Cases, Issues New Guidance to the Community

BENNINGTON, VT—March 23, 2020—Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC), part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC), had four additional patients test positive for COVID-19 Monday.


"We have been focused on a plan to address an increase of COVID-19 patients in our region," said Trey Dobson, SVMC's chief medical officer. "We have an incredible team of professionals working to keep one step ahead of this."


Preparations for an increase in COVID-19 cases include transforming the ambulance bay and other locations into Respiratory Evaluation Centers (REC). Additional work has increased the number of negative-pressure isolation rooms available at SVMC.


"The REC allows patients who are potentially infected with COVID-19 to be rapidly assessed and treated," said Jill Maynard, MSN, RN, director of nursing for the Emergency Department.


Visitor Update

Beginning on Wednesday, March 25th and following guidance from the Vermont Department of Health, SVMC will limit inpatient visitation only to the spouse or partner of expectant mothers, parents of pediatric patients, and relatives of patients at the end of life. Electronic devices with video communication capabilities will be available by request to patients whose circumstances disallow in-person visits at this time.


Testing and Recommendations

Following recommendations from state and federal agencies, SVMC has discontinued outpatient testing for COVID-19 at SVMC. Per the Vermont Department of Health, testing has been prioritized for hospitalized patients, vulnerable populations, and health care workers who have symptoms.


Rather than requesting a COVID-19 test, those who feel as if they may be infected should follow the recommendations below:


  • Stay home except to get medical care. People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to recover at home.
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor or hospital and tell them you have or may have COVID-19.
  • Practice home isolation. You should stay in a specific “sick room” away from other people in your home. Use a separate bathroom, if available.
  • Wear a facemask when around other people and before entering a healthcare provider’s office.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw used tissues in a lined trashcan.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
  • Do not share household items, including dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home.
  • Clean high-touch surfaces in your “sick room” and bathroom every day. Let someone else clean and disinfect surfaces in common areas, but not your bedroom and bathroom.

Advice for the Well

The hospital recommends that everyone who is well practice strict social distancing.


"Social distancing means that we don’t visit with those who live outside our homes, that we limit trips into public spaces as much as possible, and that we keep at least 6 feet from others at all times," said Marie George, MD, FIDSA, SVMC's infectious disease specialist. "Those who are doing this well are sending one member of the household to the grocery store or pharmacy no more than once a week."


Digital Information Session

The hospital, with the Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce and Catamount Access Television (CAT-TV), will present a second online information session for members of the community 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24. The session will feature SVHC’s President and CEO Tom Dee and SVMC’s Chief Medical Officer Trey Dobson, MD. Participants will be able to ask questions related to COVID-19. Chamber members and members of the public can access the session at www.facebook.com/CATTVbennington/. It will air on CAT-TV and be posted to www.SouthwesternVermontChamber.com/lunchandlearn.