LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Data from wastewater treatment plants across southern Nevada show coronavirus levels at all-time highs, according to researchers at UNLV and the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
Scientists at UNLV first found the variant in samples of wastewater last month, Dr. Edwin Oh, an associate professor at the school’s Neurogenetics and Precision Medicine Lab, told the I-Team.
Southern Nevada Water Authority scientists take samples from wastewater to see how much coronavirus is in our sewer system. Oh and other researchers analyze the samples, which help public health leaders find spikes and clusters before they can be identified through traditional testing methods.
Levels of coronavirus have soared over the past few weeks, Oh’s data suggests. The highest levels were found in samples in the final week of 2021.
The omicron variant is also taking over for delta as the dominant variant circulating, Oh said.
Coronavirus primarily affects our lungs, but the virus also causes secondary infections of the gastrointestinal tract. As the virus duplicates and is shed out of our bodies, some identifiable factors show up in our waste.
Wastewater surveillance will help scientists determine how omicron may mutate over the next few months and weeks, Oh said.
On Friday, Clark County reported 3,363 cases — the highest number of the pandemic. Saturday’s report showed the second-highest ever, with 3,261 cases in the county. On Sunday, the county reported 2,985 cases — the third-highest single day total.
Including Monday, the four-day total adds up to 11,467 COVID-19 cases in Clark County alone. Statewide, the four-day total was 12,443. Overall, the county had more than 92% of the cases reported in Nevada.
Test positivity rates jumped significantly, increasing to 14.1 in the county (up from 11.1% last week) and 12.6% statewide (up from 10.1% last week).
The omicron variant now accounts for just over a quarter of all cases in Clark County, according to data from the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory.
Hospitalizations have grown to 1,006 statewide — 890 of those in Clark County.
Gov. Steve Sisolak delivered a message to Nevadans as the high case numbers came in Monday:
“Today, we are seeing an alarming number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reported after the end of year holidays. My team is continuing to analyze the numbers and we are working with health districts and other partners to provide resources to combat the surge we are facing,” Sisolak said.
“Nevadans – we have the resources to fight this pandemic, keep businesses and schools open, and to help bring case numbers down,” he said.
The wastewater data usually tracks a few days ahead of case totals.