Missouri wastewater samples finds first spike in COVID-19 cases in months

Wastewater samples finds first spike in COVID-19 cases in months
Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 10:41 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - As COVID-19 testing subsides, it’s hard to fully know how much community spread is taking place. That’s where the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) comes in.

“Not everyone gets a test but everyone uses the toilet,” said Bess McCoy, a spokesperson for MSD.

Since early in the pandemic, MSD has been testing the wastewater of their more than 1.3 million customers in the St. Louis area. Every thirty minutes a sample is collected of the untreated wastewater and once a week that data is sent to the state.

The latest data shows an uptick in COVID-19 particles in the wastewater.

“It’s the first time in several months since we’ve seen any kind of increase like this and usually wastewater data is a leading indicator, so we’re likely to see an increase here before we see an increase in test results,” McCoy explained.

The state will know by Monday what the dominant strain is in the region.

Dr. Alex Garza with the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force says the new data is not surprising.

“This tracks with the rise in cases in the region which is likely undercoming infections due to home testing or non-testing. Importantly we have not seen a significant rise in serious illness and hospitalization, which is good news,” said Dr. Garza.

The data collected by MSD shows the two highest spikes were the peak in November 2020 and the Omicron wave in January 2022.

“We will likely see cases rise and fall in the future, but the probability of large swings in hospitalizations is lower because of the immunity built up in the population,” said Garza.