ST. ALBANS – The Northwestern Medical Center (NMC) has confirmed an employee “outside of direct patient care” has tested positive for COVID-19, while the number of St. Albans Town Educational Center (SATEC) staff members testing positive for COVID-19 has grown to three, per school administration.
In an NMC press release issued Friday afternoon, Dr. Susan Carol, the medical director of Northwestern Occupational Health, said the risk of exposure to patients and other employees at the St. Albans hospital was minimal.
“The employee’s role was outside the main stream of activity and outside of direct patient care,” Carol said in a statement from NMC. “The employee has been away from work for 11 days and appropriate follow-up steps have been taken with those in close contact.”
Out of respect for their employee’s privacy, the hospital did not share any additional information regarding its employee and this particular case of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, SATEC principal Angela Stebbins wrote in a letter to parents shared Friday on the elementary school’s website that three members of the school’s staff – two teachers and a custodian – had now tested positive for COVID-19.
Staff who have tested positive for the virus have, according to Stebbins, “identified and notified the staff and students who they have had close contact with so they can self-quarantine for 14 days since their last contact.”
According to Stebbins's letter, the school’s custodial staff has been asked to self-isolate for 14 days per state health department recommendations and the school’s administrative assistants were instructed to stay home “due to their personal circumstances and level of risk."
While the school is closed “until further notice” for cleaning, SATEC’s meal pick-ups on Monday and Thursday have been moved to Bellows Free Academy – St. Albans.
“This will prevent our staff from coming in for materials and it will also require us to not have meal pick at SATEC at least for next week, possibly longer,” Stebbins wrote. “We will let everyone know when the building will reopen.”
“I know everyone is concerned about the continuity of learning plans and how this will all work moving forward,” Stebbins continued in her letter. “The health and safety of our community come first. We are asking families to please do the best you can with the materials that have been provided.”
According to NMC’s chief medical quality officer, Dr. John Minadeo, a positive case among the St. Albans’s hospital’s staff was “inevitable.”
“With the presence of COVID-19 in our community, we have understood that it was inevitable that employees from among our team of nearly 900 people would eventually test positive for the virus,” Minadeo said in a statement.
The hospital is continuing to encourage members of the public to comply with guidelines for slowing COVID-19’s spread, such as abiding by Gov. Phil Scott’s “stay home, stay safe” order and maintaining good hygiene and social distancing practices.
“These efforts help ‘flatten the curve’ of anticipated cases, which will help ensure the resources of the health care system continue to be available when needed,” NMC wrote in a statement Friday.
As of Saturday afternoon, there were 211 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Vermont, according to Vermont’s health department, with seven cases identified in Franklin County.
Twelve deaths in Vermont have been attributed to the virus, more than half of which were related to an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Burlington Health & Rehab center in Burlington.
The administration at the Maple Run Unified School District initially announced a member of SATEC’s staff had tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, with the district’s superintendent Kevin Dirth confirming the teacher had been home for more than a week and was reportedly “well.”
Schools have been closed to direct instruction under gubernatorial orders since the middle of March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the expectation that school districts continue offering meal programs and transition to remote learning until schools can reopen.
As of an executive order issued Thursday, Scott has extended those closures through to the end of the academic year.
Guidance and information about COVID-19’s spread in Vermont is available from the health department at healthvermont.gov/covid19.