Community forum: Make your holidays COVID free


This week’s writer is Dr. Anna Benvenuto, chief medical officer at Porter Medical Center in Middlebury.

What any given day might hold for medical professionals on the front lines of the pandemic is uncertain. With the highest sustained rates of COVID in Addison County since the start of the pandemic and increased demand for hospital-based care, we are increasingly facing the unnerving reality of running out of room in hospitals and Intensive Care Units across the state. This is in addition to an unprecedented workforce shortage brought into sharper focus by burnout and pandemic fatigue.

In my own practice as an obstetrician and gynecologist, I have seen the complications of COVID in pregnancy and the toll it takes on pregnant people and their families. As a physician leader for the UVM Health Network, I hear from colleagues across the state who struggle to care for sicker patients, many of whom are unvaccinated and some who have delayed care. We find ourselves in a tenuous situation: more and more people are in need of higher levels of care at a time when hospitals are operating at or near capacity and health care providers are stretched thin.

This latest wave of COVID comes ahead of the holidays, when many of us had hoped to travel to large gatherings with people outside of our homes. Though I have the utmost confidence in our incredible team here at Porter, I have a very real concern that a post-holiday surge will put added pressure on an already stressed healthcare system.

As we confront the ongoing COVID pandemic and our current challenges with capacity at Porter and across the region, I am hopeful that we can come together as a community, as we did in early days of the pandemic. We all have a part to play in limiting the spread of COVID and reducing additional, preventable demands on hospitals and health care professionals. Here’s how you can help:

Reduce your risk of getting COVID.

Wear a mask, gather outdoors or in well-ventilated spaces, maintain a distance of six feet or more, and stay home if you are sick. If you have not already gotten vaccinated or received your booster, please do so. Vaccines reduce your risk of getting COVID, and remain the most effective way to avoid severe illness and death.

Be safe.

Between the holiday season and winter weather, there are more accidents this time of year. Take your time, be vigilant about safety, and reduce the chance you that you will end up in the hospital.

Call your primary care provider if you don’t feel well.

Don’t delay getting the care you need. Whether you have COVID symptoms or another health issue, we would rather hear from you before your get worse and are prepared to safely provide care.

Connect with and support our community.

In the early days of the pandemic, there was an outpouring of support for Porter staff and others impacted by COVID. Now more than ever, these people need your support. Reach out to a neighbor who might need help with errands or chores. Donate your time, talent or treasure to a community agency.

Be kind to each other.

Living through the stress that COVID has caused challenges in relationships, households and workplaces. Remember that we are all experiencing this together. A moment of kindness can alter the course of both your day and the lives of those you touch.

I am proud and grateful to be a part of Porter Medical Center, and to help ensure that we provide reliable and responsive care to our community. I remain optimistic that scientific advancements will bring about faster testing and more treatment options to make living with COVID more manageable. I am hopeful that we will remain vigilant and make smart choices to protect against the spread of COVID and ease the pressures on our health care system. Most of all, I believe in the power of our collective response and our commitment to each other and this community we call home.

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