The omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in water samples from nearly every wastewater treatment plant in Houston, highlighting its quick spread.
All but four of Harris County's 39 wastewater treatment plants reported samples that tested positive for the omicron variant in the latest data from Dec. 13, up from only seven at the end of November. The largest plant servicing the Texas city saw its viral load increase by 164% in the two weeks between data sets.
OMICRON OVERTAKES DELTA AS DOMINANT CORONAVIRUS STRAIN IN US
Following the rise in infections, a Houston man was the first to die from the omicron variant, and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo moved the area's threat level to level two.
NEW: I'm raising our COVID19 Threat Level to Level 2: Orange, because of rapid increases in cases & positivity rate. Due to explosive growth of Omicron, everyone eligible should get their booster, mask & get tested before gatherings. Unvaccinated ppl should minimize all contacts.— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) December 20, 2021
"Approximately 40% of persons infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, shed virus RNA in their stool, therefore, community-level trends in SARS-CoV-2 infections, both symptomatic and asymptomatic, can be tracked through wastewater testing," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines.
The newest variant of concern appears to spread more quickly, but may be less deadly.
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There have been 294,161 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Houston, with 3,914 deaths attributed to the virus, according to the Houston Health Department.
Representatives for the Houston Health Department did not respond to the Washington Examiner's request for comment.