COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Omicron, the highly-contagious COVID-19 variant, has been found in Columbia, Jefferson City, Fulton and other Missouri cities through wastewater surveillance, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services.
Wastewater samples show omicron is in 15 of the 63 locations tested by the Sewershed Surveillance Project. Jeff Wenzel, who oversees the wastewater surveillance program, told the Associated Press omicron was found through genetic sequencing of wastewater samples collected the week of Dec. 13. This is the first time omicron has been confirmed in Mid-Missouri.
Local health departments are not updating their COVID dashboards the weekend of Christmas, but the latest numbers from Thursday show 616 active cases in Boone County, according to Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services. The Cole County Health Department reported 37 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. The state of Missouri reported 6,468 new and probable coronavirus cases Thursday, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services coronavirus dashboard.
Boone County reported five COVID deaths in the past week. Cole County reported one COVID death on Tuesday.
The Sewershed Project is conducted by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and the University of Missouri. The project collects wastewater from treatment plants or manholes and tests it for a viral load of COVID-19. Genetic sequencing is conducted on wastewater that has COVID to find out which variant is there.
The COVID virus can be found in human waste even if the person has no symptoms. This project allows the state to detect outbreaks early.
While wastewater testing cannot determine the number of people with COVID, it can find trends in spread, such as which variant is spreading.