Vermont is winding down its very successful COVID-19 testing program by the end of this month. The federal government has failed to pass any further spending for states to continue to offer the robust testing opportunities that have been available throughout the pandemic.
State officials assure us that it will be fine, that we’ll be able to access necessary testing in a timely and convenient manner through local pharmacies through test-to-treat programs and via local health care providers. We’ve been assured that if we test positive for COVID-19, our ability to access Paxlovid and other treatments will be simple and also timely.
That may be the case in other parts of the country and some parts of Vermont, but it is not true here. There is extremely limited availability at Mad River Family Practice for anyone other than established patients to access testing or any possible treatment. The practice is not accepting new patients and existing patients have very limited access to services there. It is not a viable venue for people in our community to access COVID testing or tests. It has been suggested that in many communities, people will be able to access COVID testing through the schools. Ours is an older population and most people do not have access to testing via the school system.
Similarly, due to the very limited availability at Mad River Family Practice, people who do test positive for COVID will not have the ability for a primary care doctor to prescribe Paxlovid, monoclonal antibodies or any other necessary COVID treatment. Those people will have to access testing somewhere, likely the Kinney Drugs in Waterbury where they will still not have a physician to prescribe Paxlovid or other treatment.
To suggest, as state officials have, that such people can access other free clinics in Vermont is simply not realistic, practical or manageable. Are restaurant workers trying to do the right thing and get tested supposed to drive to Barre to the Peoples’ Clinic to get tested? Should they drive to Barre-Montpelier Road to the urgent care clinic? Should seniors who are not patients at the local health care clinic do the same thing?
COVID may indeed be endemic, but we still need access to testing and access to treatment. One size for Vermont does not fit The Valley.