Vermont is starting to unwind its network of surge sites as the state has thus far avoided worst case scenario models for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Surge sites at the Barre Civic Center and in St. Albans at the Collins Perley Sports and Fitness Center have been taken down, and the number of beds at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex were drastically reduced last month.
The 100-bed facility at Patrick Gymnasium at the University of Vermont remains set up, as does the 150-bed facility at Spartan Arena in Rutland. Neither of those sites are currently staffed, Jenney Samuleson, the deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health Access, said.
While 350 beds for Covid-negative patients at the Champlain Valley Exposition will be taken down next month, the 50 beds that were set up to care for Covid-positive patients will remain set up in case they are needed.
The rate of the spread of coronavirus in the state has flattened as residents have followed social distancing rules set by the Scott administration. The state is starting to reopen the economy as it hit the milestone this week of no currently hospitalized individuals confirmed to have Covid-19.
Samuelson said that as the pandemic started to unfold, the state set up the surge sites to ensure that the need for Covid-19 care did not exceed the state’s capacity.
“We were intentional to make sure we had surge sites set up that addressed that highest level of need, so we could ensure that the hospital capacity could handle the outbreak,” she said.
The slowed spread of the disease led the state to review the total number of surge sites that are needed based on newer estimates, she said.
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“We want to ensure that if we see a rise in the number of cases in Vermont, that we would still have some capacity,” Samuelson said, “But so far, what we have demonstrated is our hospitals are able to absorb the number of cases our models are showing.”
The St. Albans’ site was taken down May 1, while the Barre site was taken down May 26.
The Champlain Valley site, which saw both Covid-negative and Covid-positive patients, is the only surge site that has seen patients during the pandemic.
“During their tenure, both of their sides were used, and the last patient from that location was discharged last week,” Samuleson said.
The beds that are being taken down are being held in storage and can be set up again in 48 hours, Samuleson said.
“Based on what we have seen so far, we would have enough time to re-mobilize before they would be necessary and needed,” she said.
Samuleson said the sites are evaluated on a case-by-case basis in deciding when they should come down, including the normal uses of the site, staffing and medical materials involved.
The state is also operating two facilities for individuals who are symptomatic and are waiting to be tested or for test results, Samuleson said. There are currently two individuals awaiting test results at Harbor Place in Shelburne while the Mendon Lodge in Rutland is on standby as no individuals are there.
The state will continue to monitor the spread of the disease in deciding how long to leave the remaining surge sites up, Samuleson said.
“We will continue to monitor and watch the data, and we will take a thoughtful approach to demobilizing the sites in case we need to use them in the future,” she said. “If the data stays the way it is, we will continue to demobilize them a site at a time.”