Spike in COVID estimates seen in city wastewater, which is being lauded for its approach
Samples taken from the city's wastewater treatment plant show a dramatic spike in the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in recent weeks.

Spike in COVID estimates seen in city wastewater, which is being lauded for its approach

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Palm Springs Post

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January 3, 2022

A spike in suspected COVID-19 cases in the city is coming at the same time its efforts at measuring the virus in wastewater is earning praise.

According to the latest data, an estimated 5,269 cases of COVID-19 are likely in the city. Just three weeks ago the estimated case total stood at 857. The estimates are made possible due to samples of city wastewater that are analyzed by a lab.

City Councilmember Geoff Kors reported last week that the testing indicates the Omicron variant of the disease could make up an estimated 70% of the cases in the city. He urged members of the community to continue being vigilant in hopes it will ease any burden on local medical facilities.

“We all want to keep each other, our city, our businesses and our nonprofits open and staffed,” he wrote. “Urging co-workers, friends and family to get vaccinated — get the booster when eligible — and to wear quality masks will help us achieve this.”

Meanwhile, Palm Springs’ efforts at measuring the amount of COVID-19 in the community through samples of its wastewater has been singled out for its innovation.

The Coachella Valley Branch of the American Public Works Association recently awarded the city a Project of Merit Award, while the APWA’s Southern California Branch recognized the program with its Project of the Year Award. Veolia North America operates and maintains the city’s wastewater facility.

Through the program, which the Palm Springs City Council asked for at the start of the pandemic in 2020, Veolia contracts with GT Molecular, a biotechnology company, to conduct weekly tests at the plant, which are continuing. The testing involves collecting samples of wastewater at the plant and then analyzing them in a laboratory for traces of COVID-19.

The testing helps provide the city with an accurate picture of the level of virus activity in area homes and businesses, supporting efforts to combat the spread of the disease.

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