Trends found from COVID-19 sewage samples across Utah

Sep 1, 2021, 7:20 PM
COVID-19 sewage Utah...
(File Photo: Jason Olson, KSL)
(File Photo: Jason Olson, KSL)

SALT LAKE CITY — Health analysts in Utah say they have reason to worry about Utah’s upcoming COVID-19 situation with data found in sewage. They’re taking a close look at the rates of the COVID-19 viruses found in sewage samples across the state, and the data is pointing to troubling trends.

COVID-19 found in sewage across Utah

Researchers report wastewater samples give a more complete picture of where the coronavirus is spreading compared to regular testing.  If you have a smaller number of people coming in for an exam, you’ll have a lower number of confirmed cases. 

However, data from sewage samples helps health officials find the virus among people who are asymptomatic. 

The Wastewater Surveillance Program Manager, Dr. Nathan LaCross, said this data also provides a glimpse into the near future when it comes to viral spread.

“Increases in wastewater often precede corresponding increases in cases in that same area,” LaCross said. “So, it often provides us with a number of days of extra time to respond that we wouldn’t otherwise have.”

What the sewage samples revealed

Looking over the data of the past few weeks, LaCross said they’re worried about what they’re finding.

“We’re seeing trends that are very similar to what we saw last fall,” he said, which is when we saw a massive surge in the number of confirmed cases and hospitalizations.

This data becomes a very helpful tool for the Utah Department of Health, as they determine where they should place their mobile test centers and their vaccination outreach. LaCross said they want to get as far ahead of the virus as they can.

He said, “One of the main uses is identifying areas of particular concern. Right now, to an extent, the areas of concern are, kind of, just about everywhere.”

Even though the increase in the viral spread of COVID-19 is happening all across Utah, he believes there are certain parts of the state they’re especially concerned about.

“Tooele has been increasing quite steadily and not, as of yet, anyway, showing any real signs of stopping,” according to LaCross.

Officials from Utah Department of Health also said they’re seeing a notable increase in Vernal and many portions of southwestern Utah.

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Trends found from COVID-19 sewage samples across Utah