Testing since Jan. 1 shows that the amounts of the coronavirus genes found in human waste processed at the Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant peaked around Jan. 7 at more than twice the levels they had been at the start of the year.
However, as of Jan. 18, levels had come back down to about half of what they were on Jan. 7. The Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant serves 213,968 people in Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Stanford University and the East Palo Alto Sanitary District. Samples are collected seven days a week from four county wastewater treatment plants and results are typically ready within 24 hours.
Wastewater-based epidemiology has several potential advantages over test-based reporting because it includes asymptomatic individuals and people who are unable or unwilling to obtain clinical tests for a variety of reasons, according to the county. Increased cases of COVID-19 in the community have been associated with increased levels of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater.
While the wastewater analysis provides good news for Palo Alto, Sunnyvale hasn't been so fortunate. The levels of the N gene in from Sunnyvale's Donald M. Somers Water Pollution Control Plant wastewater on Jan. 18 were as high as they were on Jan. 7. The amount of S gene was lower but still about the same as two weeks prior.
Santa Clara County as a whole continues to struggle with the latest coronavirus surge. The number of people in Santa Clara County who are coming down with COVID-19 each day is still more than triple the number at the prior peak, in January 2021. The seven-day rolling average of new daily cases on Jan. 12 was 4,732. And those are only the cases that have been publicly reported through testing via the local health care systems.
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