Vt. health officials react to discovery of virus variant in Burlington

Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 4:25 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont health officials Friday responded to the news that the U.K. variant of COVID-19 was detected in Burlington wastewater samples, indicating the more contagious mutation is now present in the community.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said he was not surprised that the variant has potentially found its way to Vermont and that he has been anticipating this for some time. “Learning this news doesn’t really mean we have to change anything we do we just need to do it all the better,” Levine said.

The samples containing two mutations came from Burlington’s main wastewater plant, which covers the city’s downtown, Old North End, South End, and parts of the Hill Section. Levine says the variant is likely present here. If state testing confirms the results, Vermont will join 34 other states in having the variant present.

Dr. Levine says the U.K., or B.1.1.7 variant, might even become the predominant strain of COVID in the U.S. “Mutations and variants are expected over time. The reason the B.1.1.7 variant is concerning is it’s thought to be more transmissible and could lead to more cases of COVID-19, as well as potentially more hospitalizations or deaths,” Levine said.

The state of Vermont will spend the next week doing genomic sequencing of the virus from individuals who are positive for covid to officially confirm the presence of the variant which some studies find is 30 to 40 percent more contagious.

People we spoke to in Burlington said though they are concerned, they are already being very careful to not spread the virus. “I’ve been pretty precautious myself being from Vermont we have pretty strict guidelines in the first place so being accustomed to that really helps,” said Ian Anglum of Manchester.

“I find it hard when you’re walking around to double mask, but I think double-masking is also super efficient if you’re in a grocery store or inside anywhere. I think it’s definitely worth it,” said Sophia Merageas of Burlington.

Dr. Levine said he agreed with the CDC’s findings this week that double-masking could be very protective against transmission of the virus, in addition to other precautions the past year.

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Burlington wastewater testing finds UK variants of COVID

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