Wastewater testing shows low levels of California, UK COVID-19 variants in Ada County

Families in Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties should not expect their schools to be classified in the lowest level of coronavirus risk at any point during the 2020-21 school year, Central District Health officials announced.
Posted at 1:55 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 15:55:55-05

A wastewater analysis in Ada County showed low levels of California and the UK COVID-19 variants.

Wastewater samples from Boise, Eagle and Garden City found COVID-19 variants from California and the UK, Central District Health announced Wednesday. The analysis showed low levels of B.1.1.7, the UK variant, in Boise wastewater that accounted for 2% of the virus sequenced, according to CDH. The California variant also accounted for 2% of the virus sequenced from the wastewater.

Although the variants have been found in the wastewater, there have been no confirmed cases in people, said Dr. Christopher Ball, Bureau Chief for the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories, in a statement:

While we haven’t detected the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) or the CAL.20C variants in clinical samples yet, we have presumed the variants were circulating in Idaho. We are grateful to the City of Boise for doing this important work. The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories is on track to sequence SARS-CoV-2 samples in-house by the end of the month, which will both speed up the time to results and expand the number of samples in our strain sequencing program. In the interim, we continue to work with clinical labs around the state to receive samples for sequencing. Several partners including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regional universities, and commercial reference labs are sequencing Idaho samples. To date, 239 Idaho SARS-CoV-2 sequencing samples have been characterized in public databases. We look forward to having more robust and local sequencing capabilities in the coming weeks.
Dr. Christopher Ball, Bureau Chief for the Idaho Bureau of Laboratories

The two variants were detected in wastewater samples from January 25 and 30, when coronavirus cases were higher and therefore easier to detect the virus in the samples, according to CDH.

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said the detection of the variants in wastewater samples should encourage Idahoans to continue safety precautions.

"I'm grateful we have a wastewater testing program, and that it could tell us that these variants are indeed in Boise so that we are reminded, again, that we aren't out of the woods yet,” said City of Boise Mayor Lauren McLean in a statement. “We'll get through this, and our community will recover, if we remain vigilant in maintaining our distance, wearing masks, and following other health protocols.”