Coronavirus levels plunge 54 percent in Palm Beach County sewage. Is the uptick ending?

·2 min read

Coronavirus levels have dropped by more than half in the past two weeks in northern Palm Beach County sewage, indicating a decline of the latest wave of infections that has yet to appear in official statistics statewide.

Danny Tomasello, a Laboratory Technician at the Loxahatchee River District, collects a wastewater sample.
Danny Tomasello, a Laboratory Technician at the Loxahatchee River District, collects a wastewater sample.

The number of viral genetic fragments detected this week in the Jupiter-Tequesta area fell 54% since the previous wastewater reading June 6, the Loxahatchee River District reported Thursday. Before that, the number had been rising since hitting a post-omicron variant low March 21.

Boston-based Biobot Laboratory found 1,694 particles for every milliliter in a sample of sewage the district collected Tuesday.

The lab found about 3,715 fragments per milliliter June 6.

"This is certainly good news that suggests this surge may have plateaued," district information services director Bud Howard said Thursday in an email. "This result corresponds with the recovery of a good number of people that I know who were recently sick with COVID."

Indicators such as wastewater testing can be predictive of COVID-19 trends. Infected people often shed the most virus at the beginning of their infection. Sewage testing can give the public and health officials a five- to 10-day lead on the prevalence of new clinical cases.

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Amid the rise of at-home coronavirus testing, along with fewer infected people getting nasal swab testing because they may feel no symptoms, sewage testing can fill COVID information gaps.

Palm Beach County logged about 310 COVID cases for every 100,000 residents during the week ended Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. That's down from 345 per 100,000 people June 9.

The Loxahatchee River District collects samples of wastewater every other week and sends them to Biobot.

COVID levels decreasing elsewhere and barely in Miami-Dade County

The latest coronavirus surge may be receding across Florida, sewage readings from other parts of the state reported by the lab show.

Readings showed a drop in the Tampa Bay area counties of Hilllsborough (27%) and Pinellas (18%).

In Florida's most populous county, Miami-Dade, viral concentration dropped by just under 1% in the past two weeks.

Viral concentrations have dropped about 22% from June 1 to June 15 in Seminole County, just north of Orlando.

But in Orange County, home to Orlando, viral loads have risen 19% in the past two weeks.

Chris Persaud is The Palm Beach Post's data reporter. Email him at cpersaud@pbpost.com.

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This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: COVID fragments plunge 54% in Palm Beach County sewage