Orange County testing wastewater for presence of COVID-19

Orange County is participating in the National Wastewater Surveillance System in which sewage water from households and businesses can be tested for the presence of RNA from SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). 

The wastewater surveillance provides a 4-10 day advance warning of COVID-19 infection through analysis of these RNA concentrations and human waste in Orange County is showing high levels of RNA.

Officials have been collecting samples since May. "Both symptomatic and asymptotic individuals, they shed their virus in their stool so we can see that in the wastewater," said Ed Torres, Orange County Utilities Director.

Torres said the latest results are alarming on Wednesday.

"Our concentrations since may have been steady, pretty flat. Around 200,000 or so. The last couple of weeks, those concentrations have increased to 1.5 million gene copies of the virus per liter of wastewater," he said.

The data has proven to be a predictor of cases and hospitalizations. Torres said they can expect to see an increase in hospitalizations over the next week.

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