By Rick Sallinger

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)– Who would have thought that sewage could contain good news? Samples taken from the South Platte Renew wastewater treatment site in Englewood and others are used to determine levels of the coronavirus in Colorado’s population.

(credit: CBS)

South Platte Renew Director Pieter Van Ry told CBS4, “It seems to indicate the virus has somewhat moved through the community, we’ve reached its peak and is now moving downward in terms of caseload through the community.”

The omicron variant made its ugly appearance in South Africa and Botswana. It peaked there well before the U.S. and other countries. Now cases have fallen off rapidly there.

So now is the U.S. following in its footsteps?

Van Ry was cautious, “It might be a little bit early to tell, but I will say the most recent data was actually encouraging as it relates to what we were seeing throughout the fall.”

Their samples of the sewage from Denver’s south and southwestern suburbs is taken from the pipeline. It then goes into an onsite lab where a sample of that is measured. It is then sent to a company in the eastern U.S. that evaluates the virus load.

Rachel Jervis is an epidemiologist with the state of Colorado. CBS4’s Rick Sallinger asked her, “Could this be the end of the pandemic?”

“I think that’s unlikely,” she answered. “I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t predict what’s next but I think we still have a ways to go with COVID before we’re done with it.”

(credit: CBS)

Evidence from wastewater plants like South Platte Renew are compared with others to gather the data. It is just one factor along with positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths to consider if the virus is in decline.

Additional Resources

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

Rick Sallinger