Omicron variant detected in nearly every Harris County wastewater treatment facility as viral load rises in downtown Houston – Chron

The latest readings from wastewater facilities across Houston show a rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 throughout the metropolitan and surrounding areas.

The City of Houston SARS-CoV-2 Wastewater Monitoring Dashboard, launched in September, shows cumulative and station by station data from wastewater samples taken from 39 wastewater treatment facilities spread through the city. Cross-referenced with historical data from the Houston Health Department, Houston Water, Rice University and the Baylor College of Medicine, the dashboard tracks the local viral load and estimated positivity rate, updating weekly with new sample findings that allow local epidemiologists to track the movement and prevalence of COVID-19 and its variants in the city.

The latest samples taken on December 13 show positive tests for Omicron in city wastewater at 35 of Houston’s 39 wastewater treatment facilities — a drastic increase from a November 29 sampling that found traces of the variant at only seven of the 39 plants.

A chart published by the City of Houston SARS-CoV-2 Wastewater Monitoring Dashboard shows positive tests for the Omicron variant at 35 of 39 wastewater treatment facilities in the City of Houston as of December 13.

City of Houston SARS-CoV-2 Wastewater Monitoring Dashboard

The increased prevalence of Omicron in Houston wasterwater coincides with a general uptick of all COVID-19 strains detected at metro plants, particularly at the city’s largest  treatment plant on 69th Street, which services the Heights, River Oaks, EaDo and most of downtown Houston. On December 13, wastewater samples at the 69th Street plant recorded a 233 percent viral load compared to benchmark levels set in July of 2020. For comparison, on November 29, the 69th Street facility recorded a 69 percent viral load over its benchmark, meaning viral loads detected at the facility increased by 164 percent in a two-week span from November 29 to December 13.

This uptick precedes a Monday announcement from Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who reported the city’s first death linked to the Omicron variant. Hidalgo confirmed on Twitter that an unvaccinated man in his 50s living in Harris County Precinct 2 had succumbed to the new, highly contagious strain. The death marks the first mortality attributed to Omicron in the United States.

Hidalgo on Monday also officially increased Harris County’s COVID-19 threat level to “Level 2: Orange,” signifying a “significant” risk of contracting COVID-19 for residents in the area.

At a Monday press conference the judge sympathized with those who are tired of living with the specter of the virus but urged caution in the face of a rising tide of Omicron infections. “I know for folks in Harris County this feels like whiplash,” Hidalgo said. “I feel the impulse to tune out the latest news and just be sick and tired of all this. But as we’ve been expecting, the Omicron variant of of COVID-19 has arrived in full force.”



Source: https://www.chron.com/coronavirus/article/Omicron-variant-detected-in-nearly-every-Harris-16720573.php

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