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Palo Alto-area COVID cases have declined from early January peak, wastewater monitor shows

Wastewater reveals more complete picture of infection rates by detecting viruses from asymptomatic individuals and those who haven't gotten publicly reported tests

A worker examines a bucket of sludge at the Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant. The sludge is being tested to determine the amount of genetic material from SARS-CoV-2 virus, which indicates the spread of COVID-19 in communities served by the plant. Courtesy Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant.

A measure of Palo Alto area COVID-19 infections is showing that case numbers have dropped sizably from their peak earlier this month.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has been testing wastewater from local treatment plants daily since October 2020, looking for two SARS-CoV-2 genes: the N gene and the S gene.

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.

Recent data from the Palo Alto Regional Water Quality Control Plant shows a spike in COVID-19 genes in the wastewater on Jan. 7 and a subsequent decline. Courtesy Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

However, by Jan. 11, levels had come back down to about 120% of the Jan. 1 levels. The quantity of the genes in wastewater as of Jan. 12, the last day for which data is available, showed a slight uptick from the previous day.

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.

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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.

The county has been in a dramatic COVID-19 surge since late December, with infections at rates higher than any other time during the pandemic.

Read more local coronavirus news at Coronavirus central.

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Palo Alto-area COVID cases have declined from early January peak, wastewater monitor shows

Wastewater reveals more complete picture of infection rates by detecting viruses from asymptomatic individuals and those who haven't gotten publicly reported tests

by Palo Alto Weekly staff / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Sat, Jan 15, 2022, 10:28 am

A measure of Palo Alto area COVID-19 infections is showing that case numbers have dropped sizably from their peak earlier this month.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has been testing wastewater from local treatment plants daily since October 2020, looking for two SARS-CoV-2 genes: the N gene and the S gene.

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, by Jan. 11, levels had come back down to about 120% of the Jan. 1 levels. The quantity of the genes in wastewater as of Jan. 12, the last day for which data is available, showed a slight uptick from the previous day.

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.

The county has been in a dramatic COVID-19 surge since late December, with infections at rates higher than any other time during the pandemic.

Read more local coronavirus news at Coronavirus central.

Comments

Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2022 at 5:25 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jan 15, 2022 at 5:25 pm

This is good news. We should say, this is headline news. In fact we should be very pleased about this. Unfortunately, the gloom and doom brigade still want us to be fearful.


vmshadle
Registered user
Meadow Park
on Jan 17, 2022 at 11:33 am
vmshadle, Meadow Park
Registered user
on Jan 17, 2022 at 11:33 am

Bystander, this is not about "the gloom and doom brigade." This is about following the evolving science, wherever it may lead. Today's decline in wastewater prevalence may only be a temporary trough in a rollercoaster track, the entirety of which we cannot (and will not) see.

It will take years for virologists, molecular biologists, epidemiologists, and every other flavor of coronavirus expert to crunch the data and come up with even preliminary conclusions as to what this all means in terms of human and animal health.

Emerging pathogens are always and ever just that: Emerging.

Viruses are not even living: They are bundles of DNA or RNA (this one is an RNA virus) encased in a protein coat called a capsid. They replicate by invading living cells and hijacking their machinery to reproduce themselves. They then burst forth from the living cell, destroying it in the process, and seek new cells to invade and destroy, and the process continues.

This is not political or emotional. This is a virus. Period.


Aletheia
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Jan 17, 2022 at 3:24 pm
Aletheia, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Jan 17, 2022 at 3:24 pm
EmmaP
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 17, 2022 at 3:51 pm
EmmaP, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 17, 2022 at 3:51 pm

The waste water testing is an indication that things in this area are heading in the right direction. Ideally it will be followed by a decrease in hospitalization. However I note that the most recent test shows an slight upward tick for Palo Alto and that Gilroy, after going down from a peak around Jan 6, is now rapidly going up again. Hopeful but we aren't finished yet.


vmshadle
Registered user
Meadow Park
on Jan 17, 2022 at 5:14 pm
vmshadle, Meadow Park
Registered user
on Jan 17, 2022 at 5:14 pm

Aletheia, I am a scientist explaining the science, not espousing doom and gloom. Where do you spot emotional valence in my response?

EmmaP has the right idea. Calling me names, on the other hand, accomplishes what, exactly?


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