The United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 was the dominant strain in Moscow’s wastewater, according to test results received last month.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classify the strain as a “variant of concern.” The CDC says the U.K. variant carries about a 50 percent increased transmission rate and potential increased severity based on hospitalizations and case fatality rates.

Public Health – Idaho North Central District Director Carol Moehrle said in an email the science shows COVID-19 vaccines are still effective against the U.K. and the California variants, both of which have been found in Moscow’s wastewater.

Tyler Palmer, deputy city supervisor of public works and services, said health experts have said they anticipated the U.K. strain to be the most dominant in most areas of the country.

“With Moscow being kind of a central hub for the area, we get a lot of travel from around the region, country and even world,” Palmer said. “It wasn’t terribly surprising to see that the U.K. variant is here. The good news is that the vaccines are showing to be highly effective against that variant.”

The city of Moscow started testing its wastewater for the presence of COVID-19 in May 2020. Palmer said the city takes samples twice a week from the Water Reclamation and Reuse Facility on West Pullman Road and the University of Idaho tests them to monitor COVID-19 concentrations in the community.

Palmer said as variants started to become more of a concern, the city identified a company it could work with to conduct variant testing.

He said two variant tests have been conducted and both showed the U.K. variant as the dominant strain. The first results were received April 13, he said.

“It’s just continuing to add to our body of knowledge in trying to utilize whatever tools are at our disposal to help inform our response to the pandemic,” Palmer said.

Moehrle said seven variants have been identified in Latah County — five U.K. variants and two California variants.

Statewide, Idaho has performed 123,809 tests for variants and have identified 264 U.K., 57 California, seven New York City, seven other, two South Africa and one Brazil variant.

Palmer said the UI will continue testing the city’s wastewater and the variant testing will be conducted twice a month.

Palmer urged people to get vaccinated to keep the number of COVID-19 cases down, regardless of the strain.

“Being aware of the risks in our community and how we can continue to slow the spread and manage illness is so important,” Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert said in a news release Friday about the U.K. variant. “Continuing our work to prevent illness is key. Social distancing and wearing masks are working to help us bridge the gap as folks who want to can get vaccinated.”

Cases continue to rise to some degree in Whitman and Latah counties.

Whitman County Public Health reported 27 new confirmed cases Friday, raising the total since the pandemic started to 4,273. Deaths and hospitalizations remained unchanged at 48 and 106, respectively, since the start of COVID-19.

In Latah County, Public Health - Idaho North Central District reported seven new cases Friday, including four people in the 18-29 age range, one man in his 30s, one man in his 40s and one woman in her 60s.

There have been 2,957 confirmed and 163 probable cases since the pandemic started. Of those cases, 2,968 have recovered, 142 remain open and 10 have died.

Latah County remains in the “moderate risk” category for COVID-19.

Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to

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