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UK strain of COVID-19 confirmed in Burlington’s wastewater

Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 5:46 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2021 at 4:27 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The UK variant of the coronavirus has been confirmed in Vermont, after a preliminary test a month ago found it present wastewater in Burlington’s wastewater.

Health officials say the confirmation of the B.1.1.7 variant’s presence in Vermont is a concern, but not a surprise. It was first announced on Feb. 11 that a sample taken from Burlington’s main wastewater treatment plant which serves the downtown, the North End and South End, and parts of the Hill Section.

“Not necessarily a cause for alarm, but it is a reminder as we hear all this positive news that gets better every week with respect to the vaccines we are still in a period where there is a danger, there is a threat,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.

The prevalence of the mutation in the community is not known, but when it was first discovered, it was considered to be relatively low.

The CDC expects the variant, which is now in nearly all states and territories, to become the dominant strain of the virus. They say it’s 30%-40% more infectious, but not necessarily more deadly.

We asked people in the city if they’re worried about the discovery.

“Now with the new variant here, it’s like we kind of have to take this a little more seriously than before. Take the extra precautions to make sure definitely washing your hands disinfecting yourself and layering up,” says Michael William Ng from New York.

“Stay strong with what we’ve been doing, don’t get lax now,” says Isabel who works in Burlington.

“For me, we try not to go anywhere unless it’s recommended that it’s safe to go, mask, use lots of hand sanitizer wash your hands frequently,” said Ashley Anderson.

Austin Meyer of South Carolina says he’s not worried about an overall more infectious variant but will focus more on making his whole lifestyle healthier.

“I will absolutely get the vaccine because even if you have a one percent risk why not remove it? Even though the coronavirus for me is almost certainly not going to be fatal, long-term damage to the lungs or other internal organs has been shown to happen,” said Meyer.

Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, is expected to make remarks on the confirmed presence of the variant at Tuesday’s press conference.

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