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Monitoring COVID-19 virus in Utah through wastewater

Apr 7, 2022, 12:43 PM | Updated: Aug 2, 2022, 12:40 pm
Utah begings using wastewater to track components of the COVID-19 virus in communities...
(Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
(Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is monitoring levels of the COVID-19 virus components in sewage at wastewater treatment plants across the state. While it’s a useful early warning system, Utah’s state epidemiologist says it’s just one of the tools they have for monitoring COVID-19 infections in the community.

Last year, when the Delta variant showed up, Dr. Nolen said wastewater monitoring gave them some advance warning.

“We can see the wastewater went up, and then about a week later, the cases went up. And you can see that consistently happening through the different waves,” she said to KSL Newsradio.

Along with testing, emergency room visits and other data, Dr. Nolen said they can get a clearer picture of disease activity.

“When we look back at our other waves, we can see what percent of an increase from that baseline is something that’s a real increase versus just a fluctuation day to day,” she said.

Right now, wastewater is one of the indicators that the situation is getting better across the state.

“Our wastewater is very low. It’s the lowest we’ve seen. So we certainly have a very low level now in Utah, and I think this is a time when it is appropriate for people to go out and do activities and enjoy life,” she said.

The state’s sewage monitoring data is available on a website maintained by the Utah Division of Environmental Quality.

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Monitoring COVID-19 virus in Utah through wastewater