January 25th, 2022


Omicron Surge Appears to be Turning A Corner

Governor Phil Scott and Administration officials today expressed cautious optimism that some of the worst of the Omicron COVID-19 surge in positive cases may be passing. The 7-day average of cases in Vermont has decreased 27% and cases have decreased 37% over the last 14 days. While testing has also decreased, it appears that the decrease is real and not an artifact of reduced tests.  A reduction is also mirrored in Burlington wastewater data and a regional decrease in cases – New England cases decreased 45% over the last 14 days. Vermont COVID-19 cases are now forecast to slow and decline in the coming weeks. Officials acknowledged that hospitals are still struggling with staffing however hospitalization rates have somewhat stabilized with a 7% increase in the 7-day hospitalization average over the past week and a 4% decrease in the 7-day ICU average over the past week.  Bed availability has also improved with 65 hospital beds and 22 ICU beds currently available in the state. Notes from today’s press conference can be found here. The DFR modeling report can be found hereNotes from the January 20th call with Commissioner of Health Mark Levine, MD, can be found here.

Other COVID-19-related updates from the week include:

  • Vermont Child Health Improvement Program/AAP-Vermont/VDH has released an Updated Pediatric Return to School/Childcare Flowchart to reflect a general switch to antigen testing over PCR testing in the school setting
  • Vermont pediatricians expect updated Return to Play After COVID-19 Guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics soon.  You will be able to find it on the VCHIP Resources Page
  • The FDA limits the use of two monoclonal antibody treatments – bamlanivimab and etesevimab (administered together) and REGEN-COV (casirivimab and imdevimab)  - to treat COVID-19 due to the Omicron variant
  • Households can still order one set of 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests from USPS.com
  • The federal government has begun to distribute free N95 masks to the public and the number available at pharmacies, grocery stores, federally qualified health centers and other locations is expected to increase this week and next

        Legislature Tackles Mental Health, Public Health and Scope of Practice

        As we head into the fourth week of the 2022 legislative session, the legislature is scheduled to address bills regarding health care policies, workforce, mental health, public health and scope of practice. Here are just some of the issues the VMS Policy Team will be following and testifying on:

        • FY22 Budget Adjustment: After passing the House last week, the Senate begins debate on the FY22 Budget Adjustment bill that includes an increase to Medicaid reimbursement rates through their alignment with the Medicare RBRVS. The VMS will continue to advocate for more of the increase to benefit primary care in the FY23 Budget. Click here to learn more. 
        • S.74, Patient End of Life Choices bill: this bill passed the Senate on Tuesday, January 25th, and would eliminate in-person requirements for oral requests and the 48-hr waiting period.
        • H.654, COVID-19 Flexibilities: The bill that aims to extend regulatory COVID-19 flexibilities until March 31, 2023, advances to the House floor this week for approval. 
        • Prop 5: the Reproductive Liberty Amendment:  The House Human Services will hold a public hearing on this constitutional amendment to protect reproductive autonomy this Wednesday from 6-8pm. They are no longer accepting speakers. Please submit written comments here and indicate Proposal 5 Public Comment in the subject line. You can view the public hearing here. 
        • S.30: Prohibits Firearms in Hospitals: This bill is expected to be voted out of House Judiciary this week. 
        • H. 655, a bill to establish a telehealth licensure and registration system: The House Health Care Committee will take this bill up this week and Jessa Barnard will testify. 
        • Mental Health legislation aimed at preventing emergency department wait times: Stephanie Winters will testify this week in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on several mental health bills. 
        • H.548, a miscellaneous cannabis bill: Legislation aimed at removing THC potency limits will begin in the House Judiciary Committee this week. Jill Sudhoff-Guerin will testify against this proposal.
        • S.244, a bill aimed at strengthening primary care comprehensively by raising reimbursement, increasing the overall spend on primary care and providing parity reimbursement for audio-only telehealth services will get an introductory hearing in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee this week. 

              Join VMS for Virtual Advocacy Town Hall on Monday, February 14th, 12pm

              Please join the VMS on Monday, February 14th from 12-1pm for our 2022 VMS Health Care Policy Townhall with Vermont legislative leaders:  

              Do you have insight to share on being a practitioner in health care as we approach the second year of the pandemic? Are you passionate about a current health policy issue? Your medical expertise makes you uniquely qualified to be a health advocate and help lead evidence-based health care policy change in Vermont. This February, 14th, 2022, VMS will host a virtual conversation with health care policy decision-makers as part of our 2022 VMS Advocacy Month. Join us, as your voice is critical to improving care for Vermonters, Vermont’s health care system and the practice environment. 

              No registration is required. Simply log on this Zoom link.


                    VDH Proposed Updates to Reportable and Communicable Diseases Rule

                    The Vermont Department of Health has proposed certain updates to the Reportable and Communicable Diseases Rule. The proposed change:

                    1. Adds COVID-19 and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children to the list of reportable diseases;
                    2. Adds SARS-CoV-2 to the list of reportable laboratory findings and requires that all results be reported including positive, negative, and indeterminate;
                    3. Adds race and ethnicity data as required reporting content;
                    4. Adds the definition of electronic reporting to clarify approved methods of reporting and establishes a basis to share data between the Department and Vermont Information Technology Leaders (VITL);
                    5. Adds standardization procedures for administrative specimen collection;
                    6. Clarifies the timeframe for reporting laboratory findings to the Department;
                    7. Removes certain animal diseases from the list of reportable diseases;
                    8. Reorganizes sections for clarity.

                    The draft can be found here. Please share any comments or questions with Jessa Barnard at jbarnard@vtmd.org by Friday, March 4.   

                          AMA to Host Webinar Addressing Clinician Well-Being in Omicron’s Wake & Other Wellbeing Resources

                          January 27 Webinar: Reconsidering Priorities and Practical Strategies for Addressing Clinician Well-Being in Omicron’s Wake

                          This webinar will address workforce protection and retention during this Omicron wave. Panelists will share their recent experiences and discuss the stressors and psychological consequences resulting from the variant. Attendees will learn how the variant has influenced well-being priorities and goals, new Omicron stressors during the crisis, best practices in leadership, and the impact of mistreatment in the context of COVID and beyond. Register here.

                          AMA Accepting Applications for 2022 Joy in Medicine™ Health System Recognition Program

                          The AMA is currently accepting applications for the 2022 Joy in Medicine™ Health System Recognition Program, which is designed to empower health systems to reduce burnout so that physicians and their patients thrive. Submit your application here.

                          Submit Abstracts for the International Conference on Physician Health™

                          The International Conference on Physician Health™(ICPH), which takes place on Oct. 13-15, 2022, in Orlando, FL, is a scientific conference that will showcase research and system-level initiatives to mitigate burnout and promote professional well-being.  Abstracts can be submitted now through February 25, 2022. Learn how to submit abstracts, register for the conference, and more by clicking here.

                          AMA STEPS ForwardTM Podcast: Four Key Questions Leaders Can Ask to Support Clinicians During the COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Phase

                          In the latest AMA STEPS ForwardTM podcast, Dr. Kerri Palamara, Director of the Center for Physician Well-Being at Massachusetts General Hospital, discusses her recent article, “Four Key Questions Leaders Can Ask to Support Clinicians During the COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Phase,” co-authored with Dr. Christine Sinsky. Listen to the podcast here.


                                Join us every 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month from 12:30pm to 1pm as Commissioner of Health, Mark Levine provides us with the most pressing COVID-19 information affecting the state and nation. You will have the opportunity to submit questions to Dr. Levine who will answer them, time-permitting.

                                You can join the zoom meetings beginning in January here or add to your calendar by following this link and clicking download (you will then need to open the downloaded file and click save to add to your calendar).

                                Center on Rural Addiction: University of Vermont

                                Webinar on COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake and SUD

                                January 26th 12pm to 1pm, ET

                                Please join Mark Depman, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, Central Vermont Medical Center where their presentation will cover vaccine facts and talking points for people who are vaccine reluctant. It will also cover the importance of COVID-19 vaccine uptake and the impact substance use disorders have on the disease course of COVID-19.

                                Register here.

                                Project ECHO: Aging, Community, and Equity (PEACE)

                                2nd Wednesday of Every Month from February to September

                                12pm to 1:30pm, EST

                                Project ECHO® (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is an evidence-based method developed by researchers at the University of New Mexico. During teleECHO™ sessions, expert mentors share their expertise across a virtual network via case-based learning.

                                In this Older Adult ECHO program, we will explore:       

                                • Pandemic-related social isolation
                                • Methods to support formal & informal caregivers
                                • Impacts of the pandemic on cognitive decline
                                • Effects of isolation on physical & mental health
                                • Solutions for rural communities

                                Intended audience: Medical, mental health, and community social service individuals working to support older adults in rural settings of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Northern New York

                                Register here.

                                Implementing the No Surprises Act

                                January 20th - 1pm ET

                                The No Surprises Act (NSA), which aims to protect patients from the financial impact of surprise medical billing, became law on Jan. 1. Learn what physicians need to do immediately to comply with the new law. Our experts will also address enforcement challenges and the interaction between state and federal surprise billing requirements.

                                Register here.

                                AMA to Host Webinar on Strategies to Make Virtual Visits Successful

                                January 26th - 1pm ET

                                The AMA will host a live webinar, “Web-side” Manner: Strategies to make the virtual visit a success,” at noon CST on January 26. The webinar will provide suggested strategies to improve patient connection and communication when delivering care remotely. Participants will learn about pre-visit strategies to smoothly onboard patients to their first virtual visit, ways to conduct a virtual physical exam, and best practices for patient communication over video.

                                Register here.

                                Hospital Medicine 2022 and Optional POCUS Workshop

                                January 30th - February 1st, 2022, ET

                                Originally planned as an in-person event in Stowe, the course directors have switched to an all-virtual format. The course will provide practical approaches to common problems in hospital medicine, informed by experts and the latest evidence. All provider types practicing Hospital Medicine are welcome, including administrators, resident physicians and medical students. 

                                Recordings of most talks will be available to registrants for 30 days following the course to view and claim credit for lectures that may have been missed during live presentation.

                                An optional Point-of-Care Ultrasound (POCUS) workshop will take place at the UVM SIM Lab in Burlington on Sunday morning, January 30, but is currently full.

                                For registration information, full agenda & accreditation details, click here. 

                                Questions: Contact Michele Morin at: Michele.Morin@med.uvm.edu or 802-922-3594

                                The 33rd Annual Eastern Winter Dermatology Conference

                                February 5th - 7th, 2022, ET

                                Dr. Glenn Goldman invites you to attend this year’s dermatology conference which is returning to Stowe for its 33rd year. The conference is divided into morning and late afternoon sessions, with a large mid-day break to allow for recreation. Although the course is designed for dermatologists, medical professionals with an interest in dermatology are welcome to attend.

                                Topics: Locoregional and in-transit metastatic melanoma, skin reactions to immunotherapy, testing and imaging for SCC, MCC, and MM, cosmetic dermatology, challenging cases, medical pearls, Dermatology Jeopardy, and more!

                                For registration information, full agenda & accreditation details, click here.

                                Questions: Contact Michele Morin at: Michele.Morin@med.uvm.edu or 802-922-3594

                                The 27th Annual Vermont Perspectives in Anesthesia Conference

                                March 2nd - March 4th, ET

                                Drs. Matt Fisher and Bob Williams invite you to join them for this year’s Live VIRTUAL Conference, with practical reviews and timely informative clinical updates on a variety of topics of current interest in Anesthesia. Registered participants will have access to On-Demand Recordings to view and claim credit for any sessions that are missed during the live conference - for up to 12 months following the conference.

                                Topics: The Difficult Airway, Obstructive Breathing Patterns in the PACU, Perioperative EEG, Patients with Opioid Use Disorder, NORA emergencies, Non-Cardiac Surgery: Myocardial Injury and Preoperative Assessment, The Value of Women on Teams, The Anesthesia Department on the Other Side of COVID, and more!

                                For registration information, full agenda & accreditation details, click here.

                                Questions: Contact Michele Morin at: Michele.Morin@med.uvm.edu or 802-922-3594


                                Vermont Medical Society

                                134 Main Street

                                Montpelier, VT 05602

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