By Karen Morfitt

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – More than 20 wastewater facilities in Colorado are now voluntarily providing samples for the state’s COVID-19 surveillance program.

“One of the ways we use our wastewater surveillance data is to identify how much COVID, and if there’s variant COVID in a community,” Rachel Jervis said.

(credit: CBS)

Jervis is an Epidemiologist for Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. She helps analysis the samples coming into the state lab.

Their work recently uncovered signs of the omicron variant likely spreading in Boulder County.

“With omicron for example we are early in omicron detection. Our lab has been able to detect it for just over a week now, so we don’t have a lot to compare it to. However, seeing it in wastewater at the same time we are only seeing it in one human case in that community indicates that it is likely there is some low-level community transmission happening,” Jervis said.

Using wastewater to monitor the virus isn’t new, but knowing what to look for as the virus mutates, she says, is always changing.

“This is an area where are lab technology is incredibly nimble. Within 48 hours of omicron our lab was able to change their protocols to detect omicron in wastewater,” she said.

(credit: CBS)

While any spread of a new and unknown variant is concerning. Jervis says it was expected, and that Coloradans should be reassured by the state’s ability to do a variety of testing that can quickly identify changes in the virus.

“We have the best information to make the best recommendations and make the best decision sin our state and to protect our communities,” Jervis said.

You can see if your county is part of the state’s wastewater surveillance program and the information they’ve collected.

RELATED: Is Omicron On The Decline In Colorado?

Karen Morfitt