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COVID: South Bay Sewage Tests Show Signs of Omicron Decline

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- Data collected from wastewater in Santa Clara County show strong indications that COVID cases from the omicron variant could be on the decline.

"What we've seen is that it has been a predictor of what could be to come, the general trend," said Santa Clara County Public Health Deputy Director Michael Balliet. "Whether we can say that we've peaked is still in question, but the wastewater data is showing some leveling off and declines."

Santa Clara County's Department of Public Health was one of the first in the country to begin testing raw sewage at treatment plants for signs of COVID. And it has proven to be a reliable indicator of how much the disease is spreading.

Samples of human waste are collected from a pipeline at San Jose's sewage treatment plant. The samples are then sent to a Stanford lab, where they are analyzed for COVID.

"The beauty of this particular program is that it detects Sars CoV2 in the wastewater, regardless of your symptomatic status or where you're at in the progression of the disease. You don't have to be tested and it represents the entire community."

The data shows case counts peaking on January 7th, then leveling and dropping off by January 10th. Readings from four wastewater facilities from Gilroy to Palo Alto show similar peaks and drop offs. That data matches what's being recorded in communities across the country.

And because samples come from millions of people, it's becoming a key indicator of how communities are coping with COVID.

But health officials warn the trend lines could turn around again, just as quickly.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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