Two resident at Rutland Health Care and Rehabilitation became the state’s 60th and 61st COVID-19 fatalities this week.
State officials reported Wednesday morning that a man in his 80s who lived at the facility had died, and the facility reported a second death early Wednesday evening. No other details were provided on the second individual.
Rutland Healthcare and Rehabilitation initially reported an outbreak last week affecting eight residents and one staff member. By Wednesday, that had grown to 26 residents and 13 staff.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those impacted by COVID-19 during this difficult time, especially the families of the two residents who passed away,” wrote Richard Feifer, chief medical officer for Genesis HealthCare, which runs the facility. The statement was part of an email Wednesday in response to a query about how the ballooning number of infections was affecting operations at the facility.
State officials said last week that the facility had followed all the required protocols. The facility conducted multiple rounds of whole-house testing in the following days, and Feifer said they will continue to conduct whole-house testing every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday until further notice.
Vermont went three months without any COVID deaths, but that streak ended Nov. 7. Last week, the state set back-to-back records for highest single-day counts of new cases. Vermont hit a new peak on Monday with 122 cases.
On Wednesday, the Vermont Department of Health reported 51 new cases for a total of 3,161, with 17 people currently hospitalized and two in intensive care. Cases remain concentrated in Chittenden and Washington counties.
In the face of the rising infection rates, Rutland Mayor David Allaire said this week he was dialing back some of the steps taken to restore access to city government. City Hall reopened to the public Oct. 1, and Allaire said he hopes to avoid closing it again, but is once again encouraging employees to work from home if at all possible, as he did in the spring.
“The governor highlighted that and it’s pretty clear to us that’s what he’s looking for,” Allaire said. “We’re going to leave City Hall open for now and monitor the progress or lack thereof with the numbers. We’ll revisit that, probably right after Thanksgiving, if not sooner. We are requesting everyone who comes to the building to wear a mask and requiring everyone in the building to be masked.”
Such requirements already were in place, but Allaire said they had been “lax” and were going to “clamp down.” He also said they were making sure all visitors signed in and providing “really tight” contact tracing information should it become necessary.
Allaire also encouraged residents to follow the state guidance to avoid large gatherings as the holidays approach.
“I know Thanksgiving is sacred to all of us — I know it is in my house,” he said. “My daughter lives three doors away. It’s going to be a very small group — nobody from outside of the family, nobody from out of town.”