Houston health officials issued a warning on Monday, revealing that they detected the UK coronavirus variant in numerous waste treatment plants in the city. The presence of the UK variant suggests that there is an ongoing and uncontrolled community spread of the virus.
A news release from the Houston Health Department stated that samples collected on Feb. 22 revealed the presence of B.1.1.7, otherwise known as the U.K. variant, in 31 of the city’s 39 wastewater treatment facilities. During the first few weeks of the same month, health officials detected it at just 21 plants.
Dr. David Persse, Houston’s chief medical officer, stated that the prevalence of the U.K. variant in the city’s wastewater indicates that the virus is spreading actively in the city. Along with this, Persse reminded everyone to continue wearing masks and to follow health protocols such as practicing social distancing and to be vigilant in washing hands. He added that as much as possible, residents must get tested and also to get vaccinated.
Gov. Greg Abbott made an announcement recently that the state will no longer abide by a mask mandate. This was amid the opposite stance of federal officials urging states not to loosen health restrictions the soonest.
Abbott also clarified that removing the mandate on masking up does not mean that one’s personal responsibility also ends, Fox News reported.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner expressed his concerns over the evidence of the wide spread coronavirus variant in the midst of more relaxed restrictions.
“I am concerned about this new data on the U.K. strain of the virus in Houston, especially at a time when the State of Texas is easing mandates on measures proven to reduce transmission and ultimately save lives,” said Turner.
He clarified that the discovery of the variant in wastewater treatment plants indicates that it is too soon to completely stop wearing masks especially in public places. Like Abbott, he also urged “all Houstonians” to keep on wearing masks as a means to protect the family and the community.
Wastewater surveillance around cities and campuses have already been deployed to monitor the presence of the virus in wastewater. Asymptomatic patients may shed the virus in their feces.