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Valley Vista staff in Bradford, Vt., has coronavirus cluster

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/23/2020 9:22:33 PM
Modified: 11/23/2020 9:59:31 PM

BRADFORD, Vt. — Valley Vista has temporarily halted admissions of new patients because 8 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Bradford addiction treatment center, its chief operating officer said on Monday.

None of the roughly 30 patients in the building have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and the affected staff members are in administrative or admissions positions, not counselors, housekeeping and dietary workers or others who have regular, direct contact with patients, acording to Rick DiStefano, the COO and co-owner of Valley Vista.

DiStefano said Valley Vista had already been housing patients one to a room, as opposed to having them share a room, and regularly tests all patients as they enter the facility.

Valley Vista has stopped taking new patients until it completes one more round of testing, he said.

“Right now there are less than 30 patients in the building, and we are taking all precautionary measures to keep (the virus) from spreading,” he said. “We think we caught this thing really early, fortunately.”

A staff member tested positive last Monday, Nov. 16, and about 100 people, both staff and patients, underwent subsequent testing.

Six other employees tested positive last week, but only one of the affected employees has shown any symptoms, and they have been mild, DiStefano said.

Some other staff who might have come into close contact with the workers who tested positive are quarantining, but services at the facility have not been affected, he said.

Staffers and patients already wore masks, but members of the Vermont National Guard last week dropped off more personal protective equipment, including eyewear and face shields, he said.

“We are well-equipped to keep everyone as protected as possible,” he said.

Valley Vista retested 79 staff and patients on Sunday, and only one more staffer tested positive, which he said was a good sign.

DiStefano said there have been no positive tests at its companion treatment facility in Vergennes, Vt.

Another round of testing is planned for Wednesday at the Bradford facility, he said.

Dartmouth students departing

Classes for the fall-term at Dartmouth College ended last week and dorms officially closed on Friday, as most students began returning home for the Thanksgiving holiday. They will take final exams remotely next week, and about half of all undergraduates are expected back in early January for winter term, which starts on Jan. 7.

COVID testing will remain in place through December for those students who haven’t left or who may be remaining in Hanover, and for Dartmouth employees, many of whom continue to work remotely. Students are required to take a weekly test. About 150 students who for a variety of reasons can’t travel home are expected to stay on campus between now and winter term, according to college spokeswoman Diana Lawrence.

The Dartmouth COVID-19 dashboard on Monday showed 44 students and 11 staff are currently in quarantine, and 11 students and 22 staff are in isolation. There were 8 students and three staff who are currently considered active cases. Since July 1, according to the dashboard, 28 students and 12 staffers at Dartmouth tested positive for COVID-19.

Lebanon High offers flex Wednesdays

Lebanon High School is offering students the choice of taking classes remotely on Wednesdays, starting after the Thanksgiving break.

Many students have been taking classes in-person five days a week and Lebanon High Principal Ian Smith told parents in an email on Monday that the option for Wednesdays will “level the playing field” with students who are taking classes remotely and also “provide meaningful relief before teacher and student burn-out becomes a problem.”

The change is expected to help with the ongoing need for teachers and students to quarantine from time to time because of COVID-19 exposure and also ease the challenges of social distancing and finding substitute teachers, who are in short supply.

Meanwhile, the Rivendell Interstate School District learned over the weekend that it has a second confirmed COVID-19 case within the district, but it is separate from the first case, according to a notice from Superintendent Barrett Williams.

He said that the potential impact on staff and students from the second case “is very low.”

As a result, Rivendell plans to continue with its plan to re-open to in-person instruction on Monday, after the holiday.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock launches mask campaign

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health on Monday said it has launched both a regional and national public advocacy campaign to encourage mask-wearing to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lebanon-based health system last week started its “Stay Strong. Masks On” campaign in northern New England, and has also joined almost 100 other health-care systems in a national “Mask Up” campaign.

In a news release Monday, D-H CEO Joanne Conroy applauded New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s imposition of a mask mandate last week.

“As we have emphasized from the onset of the pandemic, wearing a mask is a public health imperative. We are pleased to see Gov. Sununu heed the advice of scientists and health professionals and implement this common-sense step to slow the spread of this deadly pandemic,” she said.

John P. Gregg can be reached at

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