Wastewater surveillance shows COVID-19 increasing in parts of Utah

Apr 4, 2022, 6:15 PM | Updated: Jun 20, 2022, 12:42 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – In this new “steady state” phase of COVID-19 in Utah, surveillance of the virus in our wastewater has become an even more important tool.

The Utah Department of Health has kept a close eye on trends with the virus even when fewer people are getting tested. Each flush of the toilet provides COVID-19 data in our communities.

Since this tool was first developed two years ago, wastewater surveillance of COVID-19 has become an early warning system. Right now, three Utah sample sites are showing increases in COVID-19 that the program manager is watching closely.

“We collected our very first samples almost exactly two years ago,” said Nathan LaCross, Ph.D., MPH, the wastewater surveillance program manager with the Utah Department of Health. “It provides a really efficient pool sample, especially for diseases where there may not be other great surveillance data that is available at all.”

Utah and many other states are regularly monitoring COVID-19 in wastewater. Infected people shed the virus in their waste, and concentrations are measured in sewage samples at the inlet of 42 treatment plants statewide. That data provides an indicator of COVID-19 infection trends.

“We are testing, by our estimation, 88% of the state’s population twice per week. That’s just not possible using something like individual tests. You just can’t get that sort of coverage, said LaCross.

Right now, the program manager said COVID-19 is in the low range statewide with the exception of eight sites trending up. At five of those sites, overall numbers remain low. At the treatment plants in Moab and Park City, he believes they are seeing higher concentrations due to travelers moving through those communities.

“We’re out of winter now. We’re into spring. There’s more population movement. There’s more people going out and traveling,” LaCross said.

So, there are more opportunities to spread the virus.

“Covid isn’t gone,” he said. “It’s still there. So, my suspicion is that we’re just seeing increased transmission due to increased population movement and contact.”

Nationally, researchers are seeing an uptick of COVID-19 in wastewater surveillance at 150 sites, mainly in the Northeast. LaCross said it’s too early to tell whether the rise here is related but he’s not alarmed.

“I wouldn’t say alarm, no. Caution, yes, and, keeping a close eye on it which we’re doing. But, alarm probably no, not yet.”

The program manager said the goal is to make the COVID-19 wastewater surveillance a permanent tool and use it for other viruses as well.

You can find the data for the wastewater treatment plant in your community here.

KSL 5 TV Live


Deer Creek Reservoir...

Alex Cabrero

State parks expecting another record visitation year, hiring more workers

It didn't matter how cold or snowy it was at Deer Creek State Park Friday afternoon. Nothing was going to stop Leonard Sawyer from taking his boat out to do a little fishing.

6 days ago

FILE —  Respiratory virus illness activity continues to increase across the US.
(Joe Burbank/Orl...

Emma Benson

‘Not viruses to mess around with’: Experts urge caution during ongoing ‘tripledemic’

Experts say though not as severe as last year, this winter we're seeing another "tripledemic" – rising cases of COVID-19, flu and RSV in Utah.

1 month ago

Skiers and snowboarders at the Beaver Mountain Resort...

Mike Anderson and Michael Houck, KSL TV

Ski resorts prepare for influx of snow and people

Many Utah ski resorts are finally getting the snow they waited all December for, just in time for another big storm.

1 month ago

FILE - COVID-19 antigen home tests. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS...

Emma Benson

‘The ICUs are full:’ Keep yourself and others healthy this holiday

It's time for holiday gatherings, but with more people around us comes a greater risk of getting sick.

2 months ago

Julianna Preece goes through the mountain of medical documents she's acquired for her health condit...

Lauren Steinbrecher

Herriman couple is suing CVS, says 5x Covid vaccine dose mistake caused health problems

A couple is suing a Utah CVS vaccination clinic, saying a nurse’s mistake led to the wife receiving five times the normal COVID-19 vaccine dose and caused serious health issues she’s still dealing with today.

3 months ago

FILE - COVID-19 antigen home tests. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS...

Associated Press

More free COVID-19 tests from the government are available for home delivery through the mail

Americans can order more free COVID-19 tests online for home delivery.

3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Wastewater surveillance shows COVID-19 increasing in parts of Utah