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Health officials look to wastewater for signs of omicron decline in Utah

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Utah – In recent weeks thanks to the nationwide surge of the omicron variant, Utah has seen COVID-19 cases skyrocket.

According to scientists, evidence of the virus in wastewater shows cases are coming down in some parts of the country. “It also seems to be burning out based on wastewater epidemiology from the Boston area,” said Zach Aanderud, a Brigham Young University professor who helped in starting Utah’s COVID-19 wastewater surveillance program.

Health leaders are looking for any signs of a similar decline in Utah. “Unsurprisingly, it’s very high in almost all areas,” said Nathan LaCross, program manager for Utah’s wastewater surveillance program. “We’ve seen massive spikes in wastewater levels. No consistent indication that we’re seeing declines in wastewater level yet.”

According to LaCross, Utah got its wastewater surveillance program up and running faster than many states and municipalities in the country. “I would say we are on the leading edge, but thankfully we’re not alone,” LaCross said.

Testing wastewater at local reclamation facilities is a good way to see how an illness may be spreading through the community. “We’re not dependent on people having the ability to get tested or choosing to go get tested,” LaCross said. “We’ll detect them because we’re getting a pool sample of everybody who is contributing to that wastewater system. Twice a week, we’re sampling close to 90 percent of the state’s population.”

 

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