Burlington wastewater testing finds UK variants of COVID

Published: Feb. 11, 2021 at 4:44 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Thursday afternoon, the city of Burlington announced the more-contagious UK variant of COVID-19 has likely been detected in the city’s wastewater.

The wastewater testing for the new U.K. variant has been going on and until late Wednesday night, showed no indication the variant was present.

This won’t be officially confirmed until genomic sequencing is done by the Vermont Department of Health, but the wastewater findings suggest it’s very likely that Vermont is joining the 34 other states where the U.K. or B.1.1.7, variant has been found in.

The likely detection of the variant was found in the city’s main wastewater treatment plant which serves Burlington’s downtown, Old North End, South End and parts of the Hill Section.

However, though these mutations were noted, it is likely at a very low level.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger says people need to continue putting emphasis on Vermonters continuing to be extremely careful with what they are doing to protect themselves, such as avoiding gatherings with other households.

“There is a belief that the public health measures that have worked to keep the virus in check in the past are still operative now, people just need to be particularly vigilant on carrying them out,” said Weinberger, D-Burlington. “These are key weeks here. By acting together using strategies we have talked about so many times over the last year, we can slow the spread of this more-contagious variant and keep the very positive trend of various virus levels under control and in the right direction.”

According to the city, the U.K. variant spreads 30%-40% more quickly than the strain of COVID-19 that is currently most prevalent in the community.

The mayor also suggested at a news briefing Thursday that something extra people can be doing is to make sure they are wearing high-quality face coverings that are well-fitted to their faces. Wearing two masks can also help contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Health experts had expected that variants were already in Vermont.

“This is a new stage of the pandemic here in Vermont,” Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said in a statement. “It is not, however, surprising. We expected that variants could be circulating in Vermont, and now that looks to be the case.”

Health officials say studies so far show current vaccines are largely effective against this variant.

“Nonetheless, health experts warn the faster-spreading variants can lead to more cases of COVID-19, as well as increased hospitalizations and deaths,” the Health Department said in a statement.

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