BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A more easily transmissible variant of the coronavirus first found in the United Kingdom is likely in Vermont after wastewater testing in Burlington showed the presence of two virus mutations associated with the variant, the Vermont Health Department said Thursday.
The department said it will work to confirm the presence of the variant through genetic sequencing of samples from people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
“This is a new stage of the pandemic here in Vermont,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine. “It is not, however, surprising. We expected that variants could be circulating in Vermont, and now that looks to be the case.”
The specific variant has been reported in 34 states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts and in upstate New York as of Monday, officials said.
Studies so far show that current vaccines are largely effective against this variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Department said.
“Nonetheless, health experts warn the faster spreading variants can lead to more cases of COVID-19, as well as increased hospitalizations and deaths," the Health Department said in a written statement.
In other pandemic-related news in Vermont:
SENIORS AND THE VACCINE
A helpline for seniors who don’t have access to technology or transportation to get the coronavirus vaccine.
The state is now in its third week of immunizing Vermonters 75 and older.
The nonprofit, Age Well VT, is working with the city to help seniors register for an appointment to get their first dose or get an at-home vaccination, if necessary, WCAX-TV reported.
One of the biggest concerns is getting home-bound Vermonters vaccinated, city leaders say.
“It may seem to some of us like this information is everywhere, but we know we have not reached all seniors. Even in this very high-risk population there are still significant number of those who have not yet signed up,” Mayor Miro Weinberger said Wednesday.
Black Vermonters also are a large part of the age group who have not been vaccinated. Burlington’s Trusted Community Voices Program is working with the Association of Africans Living in Vermont and other groups to help educate and encourage more people of color to get their first dose, the station reported.
Vermont reported 122 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday for a statewide total since the pandemic began of nearly 13,250.
The Health Department reported one death, for a total of 188 to date.
A total of 48 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, including 10 in intensive care.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 129.71 new cases per day on Jan. 27 to 113.29 new cases per day on Feb. 10.