NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – Researchers with the University of Oklahoma and OU Health said wastewater samples are testing way higher for COVID-19 in the metro than they were back in May, as Oklahoma deals with another surge.
In the samples researchers collected, they said levels over the past two weeks are as high as they were before the winter surge last December. They are anywhere between 33 to 67 times higher than they were in May. As they continue to test samples, they said the numbers appear to only be heading upward.
“COVID is threatening our way of life right now, and, so, we need to use everything we can in our toolbox to squash it,” said Halley Reeves, Vice President of Community and Rural Health Impact for OU Health.
A major COVID-19 increase came this week by the numbers. One week ago, we were at a seven-day average of 2,100 cases. Monday, that number jumped rapidly to a seven-day average of 2,800 cases. The wastewater being tested has also shown proof of the massive surge.
“Our poop doesn’t lie,” Reeves said. “In some of the sewer sheds, they are notably higher than they have ever been.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people shed the virus in their waste before developing symptoms. The detected jump was revealed in a news release sent out by OU Health on Tuesday.
“We know it is very dramatic,” Reeves said.
The testing consists of wastewater samples from different areas, like manholes in Oklahoma City, to test neighborhoods. They’re also being tested from wastewater treatment plants and university dorms.
“So that’s all the black and the gray water that’s coming out of the town,” said Jason Vogel, a civil engineering professor at the University of Oklahoma.
Doctors and researchers alike have praised the system. They said they hope it can be a good mechanism amid another surge.
“We’re able to see the surges before they occur,” Reeves said.
“It’s the kind of system that one would think about deploying on a state and region-wide basis I would suggest to be able to get ahead of and respond quickly to this outbreak and others,” said Dr. David Kendrick, who also spoke on the system during Tuesday’s news conference held by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition.
Vogel said that the testing may become even more handy. They can look for unique mutations as they start to appear in Oklahoma populations. They can also possibly detect new variants if they appear.