Burlington wastewater testing finds increased presence of UK COVID variant

Local News

BURLINGTON, Vt. – On Wednesday, Burlington leaders said that the city’s most recent wastewater test results show an increased presence of the UK variant of the COVID-19 virus in the community.

Brian Lowe, Burlington’s Chief Innovation Officer, said wastewater monitoring indicated that the variant has now popped up in Burlington’s east plant. The variant also continues to linger in the main plant.

“A growing proportion of the RNA that we detect has the presence of those mutations in it,” Lowe said. “I want to be careful about drawing conclusions from that, but it’s something we want to watch and see what the trend line is over time.”

Mayor Miro Weinberger said the latest results reinforce the concept of a race between vaccines and variants.

“This is a race with a real foe that is here and should cause us to continue to exercise vigilance,” Weinberger said.

During his Wednesday COVID-19 briefing, Weinberger said the good news is that the outlook of Vermont and the nation’s vaccine rollout is getting more positive by the day.

1 in 5 Chittenden County residents have gotten at least one dose, including 85 percent of those 75 and older. On Tuesday, President Biden said there will be enough vaccines for every U.S. adult by the end of May. UVM Medical Center President Dr. Stephen Leffler underscored the importance of that announcement.

“That means that if enough vermonters make the decision to get vaccinated, 14 days after that, we essentially should be able to do most all the things we liked to do before,” Dr. Leffler said. “We might mask for awhile, but really 14 days, we’re safe to do many of those things.”

This new timeline is fueled in part by the recent approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It’s proven to be 66 percent effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, and 85 percent effective against the most serious illness.

Dr. Leffler explained what’s behind efficacy data, and said there shouldn’t be any hesitancy in getting it.

“Often times what we’re talking about is any symptoms at all, but what you really care about is are you going to end up in the hospital, in the ICU, on a ventilator or dying,” Dr. Leffler said. “And all the evidence that we have shows that every one of the vaccines so far tested for emergency use is exceptional.”

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