Wastewater Research Shows Drop in COVID-19 Surge

Some good news for Bay Area sewers as a recent sampling of South Bay wastewater appears to show the omicron surge may have already peaked.

“People who are sick who are infected with COVID, they do have the virus in their poop and so when that goes into the wastewater and into the sewers that gets collected as one big sample,” said Marlene Wolfe, Assistant Professor and Co-Lead in the project.

For months now, environmental health experts and health departments around the Bay have been testing wastewater to detect levels of COVID infection in our communities. The latest data shows the amount of COVID in Bay Area wastewater is going down.

“Now, what we’ll want to see over the next week or two, is that going to continue, we want that to sustained and in communities where were not seeing that yet, we hope we’ll see that soon,” Wolfe added.

Santa Clara County is one of several participating regions and they’re already seeing that light at the end of the tunnel.

Each graph released by researchers showed the levels of infection in our waste over the last six weeks.

The peak was January 6, since then, all four treatment plants show the numbers dropping. 

“The wastewater data is representative of the clinical data and often times we get the wastewater data before we get the clinical data,” said Michael Balliet, Deputy Director at the Santa Clara County Health Department. 

This means that positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations may start going down in a few weeks. 

But that doesn’t mean we should start letting our guard down. 

“Overall concentrations are still really high compared to where we were last year and what that means is there is still a significant amount of community spread and people need to remain diligent,” Balliet said.

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