Burlington Wastewater Monitoring Program Detects Very Limited Presence of Mutations Related to COVID-19 Omicron Variant



December 17, 2021

Contact: Jordan Redell



Burlington Wastewater Monitoring Program Detects Very Limited Presence of Mutations Related to COVID-19 Omicron Variant

Overall Sars-Cov-2 levels remain stable; Walk-in vaccination and booster appointments available this weekend through VHEI BIPOC clinic and at University Mall.


Burlington, VT – Late Wednesday evening, the City of Burlington received results from its Wastewater Monitoring Program that detected mutation signatures associated with the Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa in late November. The presence of the Omicron-related mutations was very limited. Though the finding is not definitive until it has been confirmed through genomic sequencing of a laboratory-confirmed positive PCR test result, these results indicate that the Omicron variant may be present in Burlington at a low level. The Omicron variant has been confirmed in 39 states according to the C.D.C, including in all of Vermont’s neighboring states and Quebec, but has not yet been identified in Vermont.


As public health officials have projected, we now have an indication that the more transmissible variant of COVID-19 that was first detected in South Africa may be here in Burlington,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “By identifying this possibility early, when it would be at a very low level, we have an opportunity to heighten our vigilance and follow the recommendations of public health experts as we head into the holidays in the coming weeks—get vaccinated, get a booster, and get tested before and after gathering with friends and loved ones.”


The mutation signatures associated with the Omicron variant were detected in samples from both the East and Main Wastewater Treatment Plants, which serve all parts of the City except the New North End. The City first began testing for evidence of the Omicron variant two weeks ago, and will continue to test over the coming weeks.


Wastewater monitoring data is best used to indicate the detection or non-detection of the virus and to indicate trends over time; it cannot be used to determine how many people may be sick with COVID-19. The identified volume of mutation signatures associated with the Omicron variant is low enough to suggest that, if the variant is present in the Burlington community, it is not yet widespread. Additionally, the overall concentration of Sars-Cov-2 across the City’s three wastewater treatment plants generally has been stable following the Thanksgiving holiday. For more information about the City’s wastewater testing program, please visit


Guidance for Burlingtonians

Early data suggest that Omicron could be twice as transmissible as the Delta variant, which is the current dominant strain of Sars-Cov-2. Early evidence also suggests that, while the Omicron variant may evade immunity from infection for individuals who have been fully vaccinated or infected, vaccines remain effective against severe outcomes. Additionally, Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House chief medical adviser on the coronavirus, indicated this week that boosters provide powerful protection against Omicron infection.


The possibility that the Omicron variant is now present in our community makes it even more important for Burlington residents to follow the City’s current COVID-19 recommendations, which include:


  • If you are not vaccinated, you should get vaccinated. If you have received only one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, receive a second dose as soon as you are eligible.


  • If you are 16 and older, and it has been over six months since you became fully vaccinated with a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or two months since you became fully vaccinated with a Janssen vaccine, you should get a free vaccine booster (only the Pfizer booster is approved for 16 and 17 year olds).


  • If you are the parent or guardian of a child five to 11 years old who has not been vaccinated, you should know that the vaccine is safe for children and that there are appointments available around the country.


  • If you travel, host guests, or attend large gatherings, get a COVID test before and after—either through a state testing site or by using an at-home rapid test from a local pharmacy. At-home rapid tests now are required to be free or reimbursable for individuals with private insurance plans in Vermont.


  • Improve ventilation and air quality when gathering indoors by opening a window or using a portable HEPA air filter.


Vaccine and Booster Information


  • The Vermont Department of Health is hosting a vaccine clinic at the University Mall Saturday and Sunday, December 18 and 19, and walk-ins are welcome.




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