COVID-19 variant not seen in humans found in Dane Co. wastewater

Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 4:26 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A COVID-19 variant never seen before in humans has surfaced in Dane Co. and now state and local health officials are trying to see if it is affecting people here.

So far, there is no evidence that it has – but the Department of Health Services confirmed that it was found in sewer systems here. The variant, which was not identified, was discovered as part of the state’s effort to track wastewater samples to detect the virus’ spread. It has not been seen in other parts of the state.

“Health officials do not believe this variant is spreading in the community,” a DHS spokesperson wrote in a statement about discovery, adding that it currently poses a low risk to the community. The agency pledged to provide immediate updates if that changes.

To be sure the variant has not reached people in the area, the agency teamed up with Public Health Madison and Dane Co. to offer free, voluntary testing at a business near where the wastewater was detected. The name of the business was not released to guard the privacy of the people who worked there.

DHS also noted that while this version of the virus was in sewer water, it is not found in drinking water.

The University of Wisconsin’s genomic dashboard did show variants found in Wisconsin that did not fall under its current categorization system and currently sit in a column labeled, ‘other.’ An agency spokeswoman explained those are BE and BF variants, adding that a forthcoming update to the dashboard will include those two new classifications, thereby moving them from the ‘other’ column.

She said these two new varieties should be treated like the BA.5 version that is gripping the country.

Wisconsin COVID-19 fairly flat, despite two-day pop

With new, confirmed COVID-19 cases topping 2,000 for the second day in a row, the Dept. of Health Services is urging people to keep a closer eye on its seven-day rolling-average, as opposed the more volatile day-to-day number.

Like Wednesday, when the daily figure surpassed 2,000 for only the second time this month, the rolling average’s increase was much less dramatic, jumping approximately 50 cases to 1,667 cases per day over the previous week.

Relative to the past week, a 50-case shift could be considered a dramatic swing, but that is only because averages have been finding their levels and staying there for a long time. Going into the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the average barely budged; and afterwards it settled near 1,600 where it remained until the latest report.

The current average, however, is also the highest since June 8, the first day the average began its slide from the May surge.

Even with the uptick in average cases over the past week – relative to the prior month – hospitalizations remain stable, DHS reports. Its weekly update showed all seven Wisconsin regions, as well as the state as a whole, reporting steady numbers of patients admitted for COVID-19 related illnesses. Last week, three regions had recorded increasing numbers.

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