Testing of wastewater at the Englewood-Littleton sewage plant is finding record-high signs of COVID prevalence in the south Denver metro populace, though the number of people receiving positive COVID tests has dropped.
A Colorado researcher says the situation may indicate vaccinated people are catching the virus but not feeling sick enough to get tested.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Platte Renew, a wastewater treatment plant in Englewood that is the third largest in Colorado, has been on the front lines of helping health officials make sense of the state of the virus. The plant serves people in Arapahoe, Douglas and Jefferson counties
The plant collects daily samples of sewage produced by about 300,000 people, according to Pieter Van Ry, the site’s director. Samples are sent to various labs both in-state and outside Colorado that test for the virus’s genome, an indicator of how prevalent COVID may be in a given community.
In recent weeks, tests have shown higher amounts of COVID being detected in South Platte’s wastewater than at any other point of the pandemic. But reported cases for the area are down by about half their record peak from last winter.
About 50% of people who catch COVID will “shed (the) COVID virus in their stool,” regardless if they have symptoms, according to Rachel Jervis, an epidemiologist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That means wastewater surveillance can be an early indicator for how much the virus is spreading in an area.