Between Christmas and New Year’s Day last month, wastewater testing in Yorkville showed that 9% of residents were positive for COVID-19.
But since the new year, COVID-19 levels have fallen to around 1%, according to Yorkville Bristol Sanitary District data.
The sanitary district, which serves city residents, began testing wastewater for COVID-19 in 2020.
Residents can see up to date test results on the sanitary district’s website. Testing is done by GT Molecular, using wastewater samples sent in by YBSD, with results returned within 48 hours of taking the sample.
Christopher McKee, CEO of GT Molecular, said it is a nationwide trend to see spikes in COVID-19 levels around the holidays and when new variants arise.
“Because COVID is shed through the intestinal lining up to a week before the onset of symptoms, officials can get a heads up on the amount of cases in their community several days before people begin appearing in clinics and hospitals,” McKee said.
In some cases, McKee continued, spikes in COVID-19 levels shown in wastewater have allowed public health officials to prepare extra hospital beds before outbreaks have occurred.
Cyrus McMains, sanitary district executive director, has been working with GT Molecular monitoring the city’s COVID-19 levels since 2020.
One of the most interesting aspects of the data‚ McMains said, is how the virus’ strains and mutations can be identified and monitored.
“It’s remarkable,” McMains said.
On Dec. 8 last month, data showed that the Delta variant made up nearly all of the prevalent variants with no Omicron present. On Jan. 19, just over a month later, Omicron made up nearly all of the prevalent variants with no Delta variant present for the first time since they began detecting it, according to McMains.
“We saw Omicron come in like a big wave,” McMains said, “It seems to be matching what we’re seeing nationally, we’re following the same trend.”
GT Molecular began testing for COVID-19 levels in wastewater when the pandemic started and have since began manufacturing PCR kits to meet growing demand.
The sanitation district sends samples to GT Molecular for testing twice a week, each costing $720, according to McMains.
The margin for error in wastewater testing data is +/- 15%, according to YBSD website.