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Increased levels of COVID-19 found in Larimer County wastewater

wastewater testing
Posted at 4:44 PM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 19:35:49-05

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — The director of the Larimer County Health Department says the department has discovered a recent increase in signs of COVID-19 showing up in several sewersheds across the county.

Wastewater testing for COVID-19 started last year across Colorado. It's been a useful tool for communities statewide, as the virus can be found in fecal matter before a person ever shows symptoms.

"February 18, we are seeing an upward trend in six of our eight monitored sewersheds and it’s very significant. It's looking like numbers back in January, so I want to alert the community: We’re not out of this tunnel," said Tom Gonzales, the director of the county health department, in a recent meeting with county commissioners.

On Larmier County Health’s wastewater tracking website, specific neighborhoods in the campus west area of Fort Collins are highlighted as having elevated levels of COVID-19 in their wastewater.

"We worked with CSU and their lab there, as well as with the CSU public health response team, to do a similar type of monitoring for some of the off-campus areas that they do on-campus with the dormitories. I would say it's an increase and it's one that is consistent across multiple sewersheds." said Jared Olson, a population epidemiologist with Larimer County Health.

Olson says the increase isn’t anything like the one they saw in November or December. Still, it serves as a reminder for people who live across these communities to consider getting tested, he said.

"We’re not looking to suggest that something has radically shifted in the last few days or that there is a major increase in the particular danger, but just as a reminder that we’re still in the middle of this pandemic," said Olson.

Wastewater testing is one of many tools health departments have in fighting this virus. For now in Larimer County, it presents a glimpse of what the next five to 10 days could look like.