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Burlington Medical Center Begins In-House COVID-19 Testing

UVM Medical Center main entrance
Pat Bradley/WAMC
UVM Medical Center main entrance (file)

Testing individuals will be a key component to determining the level of COVID-19 infection within the population. But there aren’t enough tests available and only people that are symptomatic are being tested at restricted locations. The University of Vermont Medical Center announced Wednesday it is now doing its own coronavirus testing.
Health officials in Vermont are expressing cautious optimism that the COVID-19 curve in the state may be flattening.  Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger webcasts a daily update and UVM Medical Center President and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Stephen Leffler appears once a week. He said the Medical Center in Burlington has about 20 positive cases – the same as last week. And he noted that their ventilator and ICU capacity are in good shape.  “We are discharging one or two people almost every day who were in the hospital with COVID who are recovering. And we’ve had seven people now that have been able to get off the ventilator and go home. So that’s really really good results. We’re proud of those here and we are getting people back home and able to recover from this virus. So really good news.”

Leffler said the medical center reached what he called a milestone on Tuesday when the hospital began on-site COVID testing.  “Our lab has been hard at work for this for the past month and now we are actually doing real time testing at the hospital. That’s a huge opportunity to increase the capacity of the number of tests we can do. And it also improves how fast we get results back. So we are doing a rapid test here. We don’t have an unlimited amount of those yet but we’re getting more every day. And we’re able to a test that’s still back in hours. So partnering with the state of Vermont and still some outside labs our capacity for testing is the best it’s been.”

Dr. Leffler explains the in-house testing means they are able to get results within hours.  “A couple weeks ago the state was doing some tests for us. But the state’s capacity is somewhat limited by the number of people that are working there and the size of their lab and the equipment they have. And the rest of them we were sending out and that location was getting lab tests from across the country. Doing them here allows us to be very efficient about sending them down to our own lab in our own building.  They can be done quickly and get those results back. We’re not at a point right now where we have unlimited testing. So we don’t have testing on demand for every Vermonter. But we’re exponentially closer to that today than we were last week and we are literally increasing our testing capacity on a daily basis.”

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine noted that most states with highly active infections tend to see a doubling of infections every two to three days, but that’s not happening in Vermont.   “Vermont seems to be at about two weeks so on the curve that’s barely registering. So though these are all very important and tragic and significant events, we don’t want to diminish them by any means, as an indicator of how we’re doing in the epidemic we’re doing very well.”  

At the University of Vermont Medical Center 29 of 8,000 employees have been infected with COVID-19. Eighteen have recovered and returned to work and the rest are recovering at home. Half of the infected staff told hospital administrators they don’t think they contracted the virus at work.  


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