Burlington, VT — After a report that the mutation signature of the omicron variant has been detected in Burlington wastewater, Vermont officials commented on the discovery and shared what Vermonters should do next.

Mayor Miro Weinberger said it’s not a cause for alarm but urged residents of Burlington to protect themselves and each other. “Get the booster if you have not done so yet. The science is showing the booster makes a big impact with the spread of the omicron variant.

“Secondly,” added Weinberger, “we encourage people to take advantage of the testing facilities if they’re going to be going to gatherings.”

According to the CDC, the variant has been found in 39 states including New York, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Early indications are that the omicron variant is more transmissible than the delta variant and could become the dominant strain in a matter of weeks.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said it appears to cause less severe illness, but that rapid rate of spread means it could still pose problems for Vermont hospitals.

“There are going to be people who get this variant and have a serious health outcome and we need to recognize that if this is so transmissible, there will be more cases of this around so there still may be more people getting admitted to hospitals or ICUs even though it doesn’t affect as many people with those bad outcomes.”

Dr. Levine said the biggest takeaway thus far is that those who have been vaccinated or had a previous COVID infection seemed to have enough immunity built up to prevent serious illness from omicron.

“There will be breakthrough cases, possibly more than we have with Delta,” said Dr. Levine. “But the protection from serious outcomes, hospitalizations, ICU, death, should be well-protected for people if they are up to date on their vaccines.”

With the holidays quickly approaching, Dr. Levine says to keep gatherings small, know the vaccination status of everyone attending, stay home if you’re sick and to have a testing strategy planned out beforehand.

“Though for many the pandemic seems to be over, the pandemic is not over and we are in the Delta surge. So omicron is of interest in the news, but it’s not of interest in how it will impact Christmas and possibly even New Years.”