Sewage provides alternative insight into COVID-19 surge direction

Jan 25, 2022, 10:59 PM | Updated: 11:16 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — With COVID-19 case counts appearing to be in a recent decline, those who watch a particular data set said Tuesday that data set is showing a few positive signs related to the latest surge.

Utah reported 6,600 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, a number down more than 50 percent from the all-time-high of 13,539 cases reported 11 days earlier.

On that day, Jan. 14, health officials said unless someone had comorbidities or planned to visit someone at high risk, a symptomatic individual should assume COVID-19 and stay home.

So the decline in numbers comes with some inherent uncertainty, leading to the increasing importance of alternate data sets, like those drawn directly from Utahns’ raw sewage.

At the Utah Department of Health, wastewater surveillance program manager Nathan LaCross said though the stuff of raw sewage is a lagging indicator of the body, it’s an early indicator of pandemic trends.

Right now — as generally with sewage — he said the data appears mixed.

“There are a couple — and I do mean just a couple — areas where they’re seeing some nice decreasing trends,” LaCross said.

LaCross said generally in urban areas, the numbers appear to be plateauing.

“Those are many of the areas where the omicron surge first showed up, so they’re just a little bit ahead or a little bit further along in the course of that surge,” LaCross said. “However, there are still quite a few areas across the state where we’re seeing increasing trends, often very steep increasing trends, that don’t really show any signs yet of stopping.”

LaCross said the data is collected twice per week from 32 different facilities across the state, giving insight into roughly 88 percent of the state’s population.

“We’re able to get that information and use it to try to figure out what is happening in the community, what sort of case burden are we seeing,” he said.

While LaCross said there were some positive signs from the data, he underscored that could potentially change — even as soon as the next sampling — and he urged people to continue to use extreme caution with Utah not yet “out of the woods.”

“It’s tough, but we’ve just got to push through it and keep ourselves and our friends and our families safe,” LaCross said.

He also encouraged anyone to check out the sewage data for themselves at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality website.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus Utah

AURORA, CO - DECEMBER 15: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center investigat...
Jed Boal, KSL TV

Pfizer booster shot is now approved for children 5-11, here’s what a doctor advises

The CDC now recommends Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots for children ages five to 11. But, a leading pediatric epidemiologist suggests some parents may want to wait based on their summer plans.
2 days ago
FILE: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (left) and Moderna COVID-19 (right) vaccines are seen at a vaccinati...
Eliza Pace, KSL TV

COVID-19 cases on the rise in Utah, State Department of Health says

The Utah Department of Health and Human Services are seeing an increase of COVID-19 cases across the state as well as an increase in hospitalizations.
3 days ago
CDC Covid Community Map Levels as of May 18th, 2022. (Credit: CDC)...
Michael Houck, KSL TV

Summit County is considered ‘medium risk’ for COVID-19 by the CDC

The CDC list Summit County as the only "yellow" risk county in Utah for COVID-19, breaking Utah's all green risk status. 
4 days ago
The lawn of Timpanogos Regional Hospital was adorned with flags to honor the lives lost to COVID-19...
Ashley Moser, KSL TV

Hospital ceremony honors survivors, healthcare heroes as U.S. hits one million COVID-19 deaths

The lawn of Timpanogos Regional Hospital was adorned with flags to honor the lives lost to COVID-19, those who survived it, and the caregivers and healthcare workers who cared for the sick.
5 days ago
Ladd Egan, KSL TV

Mixed results for food drive while demand for assistance stays high

After a two-year break because of the pandemic, the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive returned on Saturday with mixed results.
6 days ago
The Conference Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City for a yo...
Lauren Steinbrecher, KSL TV

Young adults pack Conference Center, overflow seating with largest crowds since pandemic

Thousands gathered at the Conference Center and overflow seating in Temple Square for a big event that hasn’t taken place with this many people in-person, since before the start of the pandemic.
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Make Money Online Easily...

4 Ways that You Can Make Money Online Easily in Just a Few Clicks

Here are 4 ways that you can make money online easily in no time at all! Some are as simple as just a few clicks away.
tips to winterize your home...
Bonneville Digital SLC

Tips to Winterize Your Home | The Top 5 Ways You Can Prepare for the Cold Utah Winter Ahead

Before the snow hits, here are the top 5 tips to winterize your home to prepare for the cold Utah winter this year.
Sewage provides alternative insight into COVID-19 surge direction