Facebook Twitter

Are COVID-19 cases about to rise again? Let’s look at wastewater

The lull period of COVID-19 cases might be over soon

SHARE Are COVID-19 cases about to rise again? Let’s look at wastewater
A wastewater treatment plant in Salt Lake City.

A wastewater treatment plant in Salt Lake City is pictured on Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

Jay Dortzbach, Deseret News

New United States sewer data warns that there could be a new bump in COVID-19 cases after a recent lull period.

Why it matters: Per Bloomberg, data from wastewater tests across the country often warns of a potential rise in COVID-19 infections before it’s confirmed in positive COVID-19 tests.

  • “Coronavirus genetic material can be detected in the sewage of people infected with the coronavirus, including people without symptoms,” per Forbes.

Details: A wastewater network — which specifically monitors for COVID-19 cases — recently warned that more than one-third of sample sites pointed out rising COVID-19 cases.

  • The samples were collected between March 1 and March 10.
  • The rising signals of COVID-19 cases are about double the amount from the Feb. 1 to Feb. 10 period when the omicron variant wave started to fade, per Bloomberg.

By the numbers: Close to 2% of the 688 wastewater sites show a 1% to 9% increase in coronavirus levels from Feb. 27 to March 13, according to Forbes.

  • 9% of sites had a 10% to 99% increase.
  • 12% of sites had a 100% to 999% increase.
  • 15% of sites had a 1,000% increase.

Yes, but: The “reported cases have stayed near a recent low,” per Bloomberg.

  • According to Forbes, “the number of daily COVID-19 infections diagnosed through standard testing dropped more than 45% nationwide.”


What they’re saying: “While wastewater levels are generally very low across the board, we are seeing an uptick of sites reporting an increase,” Amy Kirby, who leads the CDC’s wastewater monitoring program, said in a statement, per NBC News. “These bumps may simply reflect minor increase from very low levels to still low levels.”

  • “Some communities though may be starting to see an increase in COVID-19 infections, as preventions strategies in many states have changed in recent weeks.”

The bigger picture: “The potentially troubling trend comes as the country is shedding masks and easing pandemic restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of a virus that in two years has killed nearly a million people in the United States,” according to NBC News.