For Immediate Release: December 17, 2021
Katie Warchut │ Vermont Department of Health
802-355-9838 / 802-863-7281
Statement by Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD on the Detection of Omicron Mutation Signature in Burlington Wastewater
The announcement today by the City of Burlington that its wastewater testing program has detected a mutation signature, which suggests the presence of the Omicron variant, does not come as a surprise. While we have not yet identified a case in a specimen from a COVID-19 positive patient in Vermont, this variant of the COVID-19 virus has been found in 39 states, including those on our border as well as in Canada. I fully expect that our genetic sequencing results will confirm the first case soon, perhaps in a matter of days.
As I mentioned earlier this week, the data around this new variant is new and emerging. But we do know several important things: First, the variant spreads quickly, even faster than Delta, which has triggered our current surge in cases and hospitalizations. Second, and key to our ability to slow Omicron’s spread, we do know that vaccines are still the most effective protection against bad outcomes – serious illness, hospitalizations and death. But this protection depends on Vermonters being fully protected. This means for everyone who can, being vaccinated AND getting your booster shot as soon as possible.
Omicron shows all the signs of becoming the dominant strain worldwide. We are hopeful that it won’t lead to more severe illness and hospitalization, but it is still too early to tell. Again, it spreads fast, and that means more potential illnesses. We all want to get past this health crisis, but to do that we need everyone to do their part.
Please go to healthvermont.gov/covid-19 for all the information you need about getting vaccinated, boosted, tested and how to protect yourself and the people around you throughout the holiday season.
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