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Experts say the public shouldn’t panic about COVID-19 variants found in state’s sewer water just yet

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Sewage Treatment Facility sign, Missouri


The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services released information Friday of traces of the California and UK COVID-19 variant being found in wastewater samples across Missouri.

The state has partnered with the University of Missouri and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to monitor and trace signs of various COVID-19 variants in sewage samples.

15 out of the 23 communities monitored for sewage samples have reported findings of the COVID-19 UK variant within it's wastewater. Traces of the UK and California variant have been found in some Mid-Missouri city's wastewater like; Columbia, Jefferson City, Fulton, and Hannibal.

Dr. Randall Williams, the director of Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said so far only 1 case of the UK variant has been found in Missouri, and 3 cases of the California variant.

Williams says the CDC is not requiring states to report cases of the California variant, but only the UK, South Africa and Brazilian variants. No cases or traces of the South African or Brazilian COVID-19 variants have been found in Missouri.

Though the CDC isn't requiring reporting of the California variant, Williams says he believes it should require reporting and the department plans to monitor the variant closely.

Dr. Marc Johnson, a molecular and microbiology-immunology professor at the University of Missouri, supervises MU's wastewater study for the state. Johnson says the variants are being closely monitored as the UK variant has been found in 44 other states across the country.

Johnson says the public shouldn't be concerned about a major variant outbreak just yet, as data shows COVID-19 cases are on a steady decline.

"The cases are decreasing faster than the UK variant is going up, so no it's not time to freak out, but I mean it's still a virus it still spreads more or less the same way, but you should still be careful it might be, this one could be a little more contagious than what we've been seeing,", said Johnson.

Dr. Williams and Dr. Johnson say the vaccine can help to protect people from serious illness from the virus and other variants. Dr. Williams says the vaccines approved for use in the U.S. have been shown to successfully protect against each variant.

“To date for all of the vaccines here in the United States; Moderna, Pfizer and the J&J which we hope to be approved today, they all appear to be effective against all of these variants,", said Williams.

Dr. Johnson says MU plans to add more sewage testing sites throughout the state as its goal is to have complete statewide coverage in tracking and monitoring COVID-19 variants. MU has already started plans to add 12 new sites across the state. Johnson says more sites are located in more populous areas as it is possible for a higher rate of the variant spreading. MU has already added new sites in the Kansas City area.

Dr. Johnson says one of the best protections against the virus and variants is the coronavirus vaccine.

"There's not virus where you're not better off not having the vaccine because even if there's less protection there's still some protection and a little bit of protection could be the difference between going to a hospital or not,", said Johnson.

Dr. Williams says the best thing for people to do is to continue safety practices and get vaccinated as soon as they're eligible.

“We just need for people to know that more than ever as we approach March 1st here in Missouri, we really would encourage you to get a vaccine and we really would encourage you to wash your hands, social distance and wear a mask,”, said Williams.

Boone / Columbia / Coronavirus / Missouri / Top Stories / University of Missouri
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Victoria Bragg

Victoria Bragg joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in October 2020.

She is a graduate of Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas and is a Dallas native.


1 Comment

  1. “Dr. Williams says the vaccines approved for use in the U.S. have been shown to successfully protect against each variant.”
    Really? How will the “vaccines” do that when they don’t provide immunity to anything at all? Even the makers don’t claim they do. By common definition they are not vaccines. They are simply a pretreatment, which the “officials” and “experts” tell us will reduce the severity of symptoms. Much like an abundance of drugs and supplements that do the same thing, but after the infection is acquired, and have a long history of safety. Unlike the “vaccines” that have no history, and no testing for long term safety at all. If you take it, you are the long term test. Good luck guinea pigs. There is no evidence you won’t die in a year from taking it, much less suffer any lesser side effects.

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