Sewer data from this Bay Area county shows COVID may be trending downward

Dustin Dorsey Image
Friday, January 14, 2022
Santa Clara Co. sewer data shows COVID is trending downward
Positive data that suggests the omicron wave is on the way down is being reported in Santa Clara County. And it's coming from the sewers.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The news involving omicron has been nothing short of concerning as of late.

But, positive data that suggests the omicron wave is on the way down is being reported in Santa Clara County. You'll never guess where it's coming from -- the sewers.

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COVID testing has been at an all-time high as of late thanks to the omicron variant.

However, it's not the only indicator of community COVID trends. To find it, you have to dig deep.

"We are monitoring the levels of SARS-COV2 virus at wastewater treatment plants, all four wastewater treatment plants in Santa Clara County," Santa Clara County Public Health Deputy Director Michael Balliet said.

Since May 2020, the county has collected COVID-19 data through wastewater to get a better picture than testing can provide - since asymptomatic people don't often test and at-home testing doesn't always reflect in overall numbers.

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Omicron continues to break previous daily highs for case rates in California due to its transmissibility.

It helped county officials first detect omicron and now the five-day average shows it may be on its way out.

"We're starting to see some leveling off and maybe even some slight downward trends right now," Balliet said. "We're cautiously optimistic that we'll see that in our clinical cases, but we certainly haven't seen that yet."

The sign doctors have been waiting for a potential dip in the omicron surge.

Looking at the county's sewer shed data on the county's dashboard you see just that.

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"I think this is an extremely promising sign," UCSF's Dr. Peter Chin-Hong said. "From a society perspective, it's great because it means that as cases go down, we should probably have fewer restrictions. But, we're always going to be nervous about hospitalizations until we see those numbers start going down."

Unfortunately, the hospital and case rate numbers have not shown the dip. Dr. Chin-Hong says that could happen in the next few weeks.

But until that time, health leaders are urging caution.

" We still recommend that people get their booster, get their vaccines and wear a tight-fitting mask," Balliet said. "Because when you look at the data, the level of community transmission and concentrations in wastewater is significantly higher than we were one year ago."

But overall, we finally have some positives to look at again in Santa Clara County.

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