Vermont health officials said Thursday that tests conducted on wastewater in Burlington indicate that the highly contagious COVID variant first detected in the United Kingdom is likely present in the state.
Two mutations associated with the B.1.1.7 variant were found in wastewater testing being conducted by the City of Burlington, according to the Vermont Department of Public Health. That is seen as a strong indicator that the variant is present in the community.
Health officials cautioned that this should not be considered a definitive finding, but it does indicate that the variant is most likely present in the state.
“This is a new stage of the pandemic here in Vermont,” Health Commissioner 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.”
As of Monday, over 900 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant had been reported in 34 states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts and upstate New York. Maine also reported its first case on Wednesday.
Levine said medical experts are still learning more about the variant, but they do know it is more highly transmissible.
“This virus already moves quickly from person to person,” he said. “It is extremely important for everyone to take every step to help prevent getting and spreading the virus, even as our vaccination efforts continue – wear your mask, keep a distance of 6 feet from each other, and absolutely avoid crowded places.”
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