Health Care

Birchwood Terrace facility in Burlington reports seven COVID-19 cases

Birchwood Terrace Rehab and Healthcare
Birchwood Terrace Rehab and Healthcare in the New North End of Burlington has reported seven cases of COVID-19. Photo by Mark Johnson/VTDigger

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A second nursing home in Burlington has reported an outbreak of the coronavirus.

Birchwood Terrace Rehabilitation and Healthcare reported Wednesday that seven of its residents had tested positive for COVID-19. Those who affected have been isolated from other residents and are receiving medical care at the facility in Burlington’s New North End. 

“The health and safety of our residents and staff is our number one priority,” said executive director Alecia DiMario in a release. “We are testing affected residents to help ensure their health, and we will continue to be proactive and vigilant in curtailing the spread of the virus.”

Birchwood, which provides short-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing care, reported its first positive test on Monday, the facility said. Six more cases were confirmed Wednesday, and more tests are pending.

Birchwood has “strictly followed” health guidelines since the coronavirus outbreak began in Vermont, staff said in the release. The facility, on Starr Farm Road across from the Flynn Elementary School, has barred visitors, except for medical necessity and end-of-life situations. Employees and residents are screened daily. 

The cases at Birchwood follow a growing outbreak at Burlington Health & Rehab, where 22 residents and 14 health care workers have tested positive. Eight residents at the downtown facility have died from the virus. 

A third facility for seniors in Chittenden County, Pinecrest at Essex, a 104-unit apartment complex in Essex for people 55 and older, also has a cluster of COVID-19 cases. One resident and two people connected with Pinecrest have died of the virus.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Vermont Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine said that six other senior living facilities across the state have confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

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The Residence at Quarry Hill in South Burlington, Pinecrest in Essex, Taft Farms Senior Living Community in Williston, Lancaster Condos in South Burlington, NFI Shelbourne House in Williston, UVM Home Health and Hospice (includes McClure Respite House) all have at least one staff member or resident who has contacted the virus. 

“None of them should merit a scarlet letter,” Levine said. “This is really something we’re going to see more and more, not only in Vermont and across the nation.”

The health department’s Outbreak Response Team has contacted each of the facilities to provide guidance, support, and personal protective equipment and other supplies, according to Bennett Truman, a spokesperson for the department. The teams also conduct contact tracing to determine who else may have been exposed to the virus.

While patients and staff at Burlington Health and Rehab have been tested for COVID-19, Levine said, the health department has not adopted a policy of testing everyone in a nursing or senior living facility when cases emerge.

“People often ask when there’s an outbreak in a facility, what exactly happens? And I’ve told you that there’s a lot that goes on with regard to infection control, and trying to make sure that we separate people who are cases versus those who have potentially not been exposed,” Levine said.

The department conducted testing of staff and patients at Burlington Health & Rehab, Levine said, to ensure there was “appropriate cohorting of patients and cohorting of staff to make sure that infection didn’t spread from one part of the facility to the other.”

“We had reached a point where it would be more important for us to test across the board,” Levine said. “I can’t say that that’s a policy that would be applied to every specific outbreak that occurs.”

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Katie Jickling

About Katie

Katie Jickling covers health care for VTDigger. She previously reported on Burlington city politics for Seven Days. She has freelanced and interned for half a dozen news organizations, including Vermont Public Radio, the Valley News, Northern Woodlands, Eating Well magazine and the Herald of Randolph. She is a graduate of Hamilton College and a native of Brookfield.

Email: [email protected]

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