Home Local NewsLocal NewsSan Francisco Bay Area wastewater data reveals alarming COVID spike

Bay Area wastewater data reveals alarming COVID spike

by admin

A worker cleans an ultraviolet light disinfection system as part of a water purification process at the Silicon Valley Advance Purification Center in December. Recent wastewater readings show record COVID-19 levels in the Bay Area.

Terry Chea/Associated Press

The Bay Area is seeing the highest levels of COVID-19 infections recorded in wastewater surveys since they began in mid-2022. But unlike previous waves of the pandemic, fewer people are becoming severely ill with the disease.

Data collected by the public health company Verily indicate elevated concentrations of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, in nearly all Bay Area sewer sheds. Throughout December, these levels more than tripled in most cities, reaching highs at treatment plants in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Novato around Christmas Day. 

The heightened virus levels in sewer sheds, serving as early indicators of community infections in the absence of widespread testing, have led to a significant increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. 

Advertisement

Article continues below this ad

The spike is attributed to holiday gatherings, travel and the nationwide surge of the recently identified JN.1 coronavirus variant. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the BA.2.86 omicron offshoot now constitutes approximately 62% of cases, a substantial increase from the estimated 21% just a month ago.

Lab technician Justin Paluba works as a team of scientists refine and optimize a rapid and low-cost new technique to test wastewater for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in Hildebrand Hall at UC Berkeley in 2020. Recent wastewater readings show record COVID levels in the Bay Area.

Lab technician Justin Paluba works as a team of scientists refine and optimize a rapid and low-cost new technique to test wastewater for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in Hildebrand Hall at UC Berkeley in 2020. Recent wastewater readings show record COVID levels in the Bay Area.

Scott Strazzante/The Chronicle

Over the past month, COVID-19 hospitalizations in California have risen by 23%, with an average of 446 new admissions daily, according to health department data released on Monday. There are an estimated 2,069 people hospitalized due to the virus across the state, but that number is a fraction of the 22,000 individuals hospitalized during the initial omicron wave in January 2021 and lower than the 3,300 last year. 

Currently, around 5% of the state’s inpatient beds and slightly over 3% of its intensive care unit beds are in use for COVID-19 patients. 

Advertisement

Article continues below this ad

Hospitals are grappling with increased strain due to a spike in influenza and RSV, but recent data suggests that the waves have stabilized and, in certain areas, are now on the decline.

On a national scale, levels of coronavirus in wastewater are roughly 27% higher than they were at the same time last year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, instances requiring medical attention, including emergency department visits, have decreased by 21%. 

This contrast can be attributed to elevated levels of community immunity stemming from vaccination, prior infections, or a combination of both, along with the widespread use of the antiviral treatment Paxlovid, according to a COVID-19 update from the CDC released Friday.

While these positive trends are encouraging, national statistics reveal a continued rise in hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19, increasing by 20.4% and 12.5%, respectively, since the beginning of 2024. Emergency department visits have also seen a rise of 12.8%. 

The disease contributed to 3.6% of all deaths in the nation last week.

Advertisement

Article continues below this ad

Reach Aidin Vaziri: avaziri@sfchronicle.com

You may also like

CA News 247 is your one-stop website for the latest US and California news and updates, follow us now to get the news that maters.

About Links

Sections

Newsletter

Subscribe my Newsletter for new blog posts, tips & new photos. Let's stay updated!

Laest News

Post Politics Now: House speaker vote enters 4th day as McCarthy tries to sell a deal Remembering TCU’s last national title, way back in 1939 US Open champ Ash Barty announces she’s pregnant, a year after retirement Supporters raise millions to rebrand Jan. 6 rioters as ‘patriots’

Copyright © 2023 – CA News 247. All Right Reserved.

Facebook Twitter Instagram Youtube

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy