Wastewater Data Suggests Potential Decline in Covid Cases

Wastewater Data Suggests Potential Decline in Covid Cases

According to wastewater data from Biobot Analytics, there are signs that the recent increase in Covid cases may have peaked in certain areas. The company collects and analyzes wastewater samples from 257 sites across the United States, and they have reported that the current average Covid levels are approximately 5% lower than they were last week. This has led to cautious optimism that the current wave may be plateauing and starting to decline.

While official data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show a rise in hospitalizations and deaths related to Covid, wastewater surveillance could provide some insight into future trends. Recent data from the CDC’s Covid wastewater surveillance program suggests declines in mid-Atlantic states like Virginia and Maryland, which is consistent with the findings of a lab in North Carolina responsible for testing 12 sites across the state. According to Jessica Schlueter, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, the increase in Covid wastewater samples seems to be peaking and starting to taper off, indicating a potential fall in cases.

However, wastewater collection sites in the Midwest and the Northeast continue to show a steady increase in Covid spread. This is not entirely unexpected, as increases around the start of the school year have been observed in the past three years of Covid activity. Amy Kirby, who heads the CDC’s wastewater monitoring program, explained that these increases typically plateau and then come back down before another winter surge.

Another monitoring system called WastewaterSCAN, which tracks sites in 36 states, is slightly more conservative in its analysis of the latest Covid wastewater data. Marlene Wolfe, an assistant professor at Emory University and program director for WastewaterSCAN, stated that the current data shows a kind of “flattening out” rather than a true downturn. Like the CDC data, WastewaterSCAN indicates a current rise in Covid spread in the Midwest, suggesting that this region is in the midst of a surge.

Wastewater surveillance has become a meaningful indication of viral activity since public health officials no longer track individual Covid cases. Bill Hanage, an associate director at the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard University and a scientific adviser to Biobot, explained that wastewater predictions are similar to weather reports. Infected individuals shed the virus in sewage pipes about a week before experiencing symptoms, providing valuable insight into the spread of viruses like Covid. Wastewater surveillance allows analysts to monitor the health of communities without relying solely on individual testing.

While the recent wastewater data is encouraging, experts caution that it is still too early to determine the long-term trajectory of Covid cases. It is important for individuals to continue practicing protective measures and getting vaccinated to prevent further surges in viral activity.

– Source article from NBC News

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