COVID-19 outbreak at Burlington Health & Rehab expands

The COVID-19 outbreak at Burlington Health & Rehab has intensified with four new patients testing positive at the facility. State officials announced the outbreak at a press conference Friday, a day after a resident in her 80s who was living the facility tested positive for the coronavirus died. She tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday.

Burlington Health & Rehab provides long-term and respite care to approximately 90 older adults, as well as short-term rehab for those leaving the hospital. Elderly living facilities and nursing homes have been of high concern to public health officials, given the particular threat the coronavirus poses to older people. Gov. Phil Scott ordered last week that elder care homes limit visitors.

A “half dozen” or more tests had already been conducted, said Health Commissioner Mark Levine. Blanket testing was not being conducted at the facility. “That would probably not be an effective use of resources unless everyone there was symptomatic of the illness,” he said.

Levine said the state was conducting its own investigation, which would determine who needs to be tested at the facility. The administration has reached out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about conducting an investigation into the outbreak at the Burlington facility.

The department is also working with the facility to understand their infection control practices and make sure they’re being implemented.

The state has also supplied additional protective gear to health care workers at the facility, and was working with administrators to ensure safety protocol was in place.

“We are of course assisting with a lot of the contact tracing, making sure that we’re aware of any other residents, any healthcare workers, that might have had contact with a positive case and doing the appropriate surveillance that’s necessary,” Levine said at a Friday press conference.

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Burlington Health and Rehab spokesperson Lori Mayer said the facility had been “hyper-vigilant” screening patients and residents as well as working with the Health Department on proper protocols.

“We are doing everything possible to minimize any additional cases at Burlington Health and Rehabilitation Center and have alerted those who may have come into contact with our center, including patients, residents and families. We also continue to host family video conference calls two times per day to keep everyone up-to-date with what is happening at the center.  The safety and well-being of our patients, residents and employees continues to be our number one priority,” Mayer said.

According to Mayer, the center has experienced positive COVID-19 cases on two floors of our building, both of which are long-term care floors.  She said the facility was in the process of bringing in an additional 12 to 15 nurses to cover those who are out now due to the 14-day quarantine restriction.

There have now been a total of 28 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Vermont.

In addition to a total of the four new cases at Burlington Health & Rehab, three people who are not hospitalized also tested positive on Friday, according to Levine.

Phil Scott and Mark Levine
Gov. Phil Scott and Health Commissioner Mark Levine at a press conference on Friday, March 20. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

Gov. Phil Scott said the deaths yesterday were “a stark reminder of why the mitigation actions and efforts we’re taking are absolutely necessary.”

The governor stopped short of issuing a “shelter in place” order and urged residents to “do all we can to protect our older Vermonters, and those with underlying conditions, who are at greater risk and severe outcomes like what we announced last night.”

Burlington Health & Rehab, which is owned by Genesis HealthCare, ranks below the state average for health inspections, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Last month Burlington Health was one of three assisted living facilities owned by Genesis in Vermont that settled over four reports of neglect with the Vermont Attorney General’s office for $700,000 last year.

Genesis owns nine facilities in the state.