BRATTLEBORO — All people living at the Quality Inn in Brattleboro have been asked to quarantine until April 30 after two guests tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks.
The Putney Road hotel is one of many in Vermont housing people during the COVID-19 pandemic who would otherwise be unsheltered, as part of the state’s effort to reduce viral transmission. Groundworks Collaborative, a Brattleboro nonprofit that offers shelter and housing services to those experiencing homelessness, has supported guests at the Quality Inn and three other area hotels since last spring.
Groundworks learned of the first COVID-19 case April 7, according to the organization’s executive director, Josh Davis.
The infected individual and the individual’s family were subsequently transferred to the Ho-Hum Motel in Burlington, Vt., Davis said. That motel is serving as a COVID-19 isolation facility for anyone in the state experiencing homelessness or living in a congregate setting.
Groundworks detected a second case at the Quality Inn on Thursday after testing nearly all residents multiple times that week, according to Davis.
The person diagnosed with COVID-19 was transferred to the Ho-Hum Motel later that day, he said, along with eight other Quality Inn guests who Groundworks determined had close contact with that individual.
After consulting state officials, Groundworks issued a quarantine order for the Quality Inn on Friday, Davis said. There were 87 people living at the hotel as of Saturday, he said.
“We’re really trying to keep everybody on site, trying to keep everybody in their room as much as possible,” he said.
Davis said the COVID-19 cases at the Quality Inn are the first that have been detected at any facility Groundworks has supported during the pandemic — though some people have been transferred to the Ho-Hum Motel after exhibiting coronavirus symptoms or owing to possible contact with someone who tested positive.
More than 2,700 people were receiving shelter through Vermont’s pandemic emergency housing program last month, according to reporting by WCAX. At the time, only around 10 people housed as part of that program had been diagnosed with COVID-19, Vermont Department for Children and Families Commissioner Sean Brown said.
Davis said he does not know what percentage of Quality Inn residents have been vaccinated for COVID-19 but that he senses it’s “relatively low.”
The hotel had been scheduled to host a vaccination clinic for guests this Wednesday, he said. The clinic was canceled, however, because it was going to administer the single-dose vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson, which the state has stopped administering based on federal guidance.
Groundworks is requiring all Quality Inn guests to wear masks and adhere to social-distancing guidelines, according to Davis. The organization’s staff is helping coordinate meals for residents, who are allowed to go outside for fresh air, he said.
Vaughn Tingley, who has been living at the Quality Inn since last June, said residents could previously leave as they pleased but had always been encouraged to avoid close contact with strangers.
Tingley, 46, said guests are prohibited from visiting each other’s rooms and that the hotel has now taken extra steps to prevent non-residents from entering the building.
“I don’t really hang out with a lot of people, so the exposure’s been pretty low,” he said.
Groundworks’ staff has been “very accommodating” during the quarantine, Tingley said, including offering to help run errands for Quality Inn guests.
Davis praised his staff, as well as residents at the Quality Inn, for their cooperation since Friday.
“Folks are disappointed ... but rolling with it and meeting it with flexibility,” he said.
Groundworks plans to test all Quality Inn guests for COVID-19 twice by April 30 and could lift the quarantine before that date if the results are negative, Davis said. He assumed, however, that the quarantine would last at least until the end of the month and said it could be extended if other cases are detected.