Burlington's COVID-19 wastewater monitoring spikes following Thanksgiving

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Burlington's COVID-19 wastewater monitoring spikes following Thanksgiving

Fri, 12/04/2020 - 1:15pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine On Wednesday evening, the City of Burlington received its first readings from the COVID-19 Wastewater Monitoring Program since the Thanksgiving holiday. The readings show a major increase in the marker of COVID-19 in wastewater across the city, indicating significantly higher prevalence of the virus in Burlington.

See graphic below.

It is important to note that the readings are based on only one sampling at each of the City’s three wastewater treatment plants after Thanksgiving. Additional sampling will be conducted in coming days to confirm the readings. However, given the potential consequence of the elevated levels that the readings show and the fact that all three plants are indicating the same significant upward trend, the City is releasing this information to the public now.

“The days matter in our response to this pandemic,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “That’s why we’re releasing these initial readings from our wastewater monitoring program today. I hope that all Burlingtonians will look at this graph and see what I see: a call to action. We must remember that it’s in our collective power to bring this surge back down. We need everyone to cease social gatherings outside of your household and to get tested if you have participated in a social gathering over the last week.”

Wastewater surveillance for COVID-19 is a leading indicator, and increased levels of COVID-19 RNA can show up in wastewater monitoring up to seven days earlier than testing results.

Learn more about the City’s wastewater monitoring program.

As case numbers have grown in recent weeks, the State and the City have been intently focused on expanding testing availability.

At Governor Scott's press briefing today, Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, noted there was an increase in results in this testing after Halloween and even a bigger increase after Thanksgiving. There was also a record spike in COVID-19 cases after Halloween; they will look to see if there is a similar increase after Thanksgiving.

If there is a correlation, Levine said, it will not show up for several days because of that lag period before the COVID-19 illness actually shows up.

Levine hopes there is not a correlation because Halloween gatherings led to many COVID-19 outbreaks across the state, record high daily case counts and several more deaths. He said would not want to see that same result from Thanksgiving.

The governor put in stricter guidelines after Halloween, including limiting gatherings to only those in one's own household and stricter requirements on travel, which now includes mandatory quarantining when coming to or returning to Vermont.

For now, those stricter guidelines will remain in place through the rest of the holiday period pending on the number of cases.

There are now multiple ways for people to get tested in Burlington:

  • 405 Pine Street: Free tests every day from noon-8:00 pm through December. More than 250 tests per day. Register on Department of Health website.
  • 294 N Winooski: Free pop-up testing on Friday, Dec. 11 and Friday, Dec. 18. Register on Department of Health website in coming days.
  • UVM students and staff: UVM will be continuing to offer free weekly testing to all UVM students, faculty, and staff who remain in Burlington during their winter break. See more.
  • Other: Other testing is available at Garnet Health at the Airport, at many pharmacies, and at other State testing locations in surrounding communities. Please note that some of these additional locations may have a charge and insurance reimbursement may vary. See details on Department of Health website.

“Though these numbers suggest that the weeks ahead may be tough ones, the vaccine coming means that there’s a light at the end of this tunnel," said Mayor Weinberger. “This pandemic won’t last forever – but we need to come together for a final push to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbors.”

Source: Burlington Mayor 12.3.2020