Vermont Works To Slow COVID-19 Outbreaks At Nursing Homes As Vaccine Approaches

Four Seasons Care Home residents from left, Judy West, John Williams, Shirley Scribner, Lillian Corriveau and Maude Ducharme, plus co-owner Ashley Hudson, stand for a portrait on Thursday, Dec. 10. Everyone in this photo contracted COVID-19 this fall. (Elodie Reed/VPR)

In recent weeks, eight of Vermont’s eldercare homes have experienced outbreaks of the coronavirus, and the vast majority of the state’s recent COVID-19 fatalities have come from those events.

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that house elderly people are some of the most at risk for outbreaks of COVID-19. Residents are often housed in tight living situations with roommates, communal dining halls and staff who float from person to person.

Four Seasons Care Home in Northfield discovered its first case of COVID-19 about a month ago. One resident got tested when he went to the hospital for an non-COVID issue, according to co-owner Ashley Hudson.

She was surprised. None of the staff had reported symptoms in their daily screenings, and none of residents, who are screened twice a day, reported anything.

“So by the time that asymptomatic people tested positive, it was just all over,” Hudson said.

In less than a week, there were 22 cases at the 37-bed facility. Some of the residents, like 63-year old Judy West, tested positive and started to feel sick. West said she got a cough, a headache and a runny nose.

“Well, I was scared at first, ’cause you never know if you’re going to die or not,” she said.

The 32 residents were confined to their rooms and staff delivered meals. They also got commodes so they wouldn’t have to use the communal bathroom. The weekly Bingo game was canceled.

71-year old John Williams, another resident who tested positive, said being sick was worse than the isolation: “I felt so crappy, I didn’t really care about it.”

Read the rest of this story at VPR’s website.