Health Care

National Guard building two additional medical ‘surge’ sites

The Vermont National Guard is setting up a facility for hospital overflow at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction, where drive-up tests have also been done. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

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The Vermont National Guard is building two new medical “surge” sites, adding an additional 550 beds as hospitals prepare for an influx of patients with COVID-19. 

Gov. Phil Scott announced Thursday that the Guard was setting up facilities at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction, and another in Rutland County. The Guard already set up three surge sites in Burlington, Barre, and St. Albans last week, adding up to another 250 beds if needed. 

Guard members will staff the 400-bed Essex Junction site, while the other 150-bed location will be staffed by Rutland Regional Medical Center. The sites will only be used if hospitals exceed capacity. The Guard has been deployed to staff and build medical facilities, do civil engineering, and stock and move supplies, said Lt. Chelsea Clark, public affairs officer with the Vermont National Guard. 

Agency of Human Service Secretary Mike Smith said the intent of surge facilities including Essex Junction were to handle non-COVID patients to free up hospital beds for severe virus cases.

“At the Governor’s direction, the Vermont National Guard has already started executing on this plan,” said Brig. Gen. Gregory Knight, adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard, in a prepared statement Thursday. “This is what we train to do in service to our state and nation.”

The state has also put 50-bed medical trailers at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor. 

The announcement comes as the Vermont Health Department reported Thursday that a total of 338 Vermonters have tested positive for coronavirus; 17 have died. 

The exposition site has been used by University of Vermont Medical Center as a drive-up testing site.

Earlier this week, Scott called on individuals with past medical experience to join the state’s Medical Reserve Corps. The state has launched a site that directs those with medical and health care skills to the Medical Reserve Corps, and those with other needed skills to a quick registration process for other volunteer efforts. 

“This is a multi-dimensional response from many organizations and agencies in state government and throughout our communities,” Scott said in a prepared statement Thursday. “I am very proud of what everyone is doing to step up and come together.”

As of Thursday, 89 Guard members in Vermont have been activated to work on the state’s COVID-19 response, said Guard spokesperson Capt. Mike Arcovitch. This includes 25 members of the Quick Response Force, and members of the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the Vermont Air National Guard. He added that 25 additional members will soon be called on to build the Essex site.

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Elizabeth Gribkoff

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Gribkoff is VTDigger's energy and environment reporter. She graduated from UVM's Environmental Studies program in 2013, receiving departmental honors for her thesis on women's farming networks in Chile and Vermont. Since graduating, Elizabeth has worked in conservation and sustainable agriculture. Most recently, she was a newsroom and reporting intern with VTDigger.

Email: [email protected]

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