SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– It was just a few weeks ago when Onondaga County was the epicenter for the new Omicron variant- BA2.12. As cases surged, so did the detection of the virus in wastewater. 

“What that means is it gives you an indication of what is the probability that an individual in that community will encounter COVID-19 as they go about their day,” Syracuse University Epidemiologist David Larsen explained. 

Larsen and his team have been integral in using wastewater to detect the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in Onondaga County and now across the State. But like everything with the pandemic the rates of transmission fluctuate. After seeing a spike, Onondaga County is now seeing a two-week downward trend in detection while the rest of the state sees an uptick.

This graph shows a two-week downward trend in the detection of SARS-CoV-2 for Onondaga County. Credit: NYS SARS-CoV-2 Wastewater Surveillance Data Tracker.

However, just because the detection is trending downward doesn’t mean COVID-19 is gone in our community. In fact, based on wastewater samples this week from six plants in Onondaga County, the probability of community transmission is still substantial to high.

This graph shows all of Onondaga County in a substantial to high transmission zone based on wastewater detection. Credit: NYS SARS-CoV-2 Wastewater Surveillance Data Tracker.

Larsen said anytime the wastewater shows a substantial to high reading of SARS-CoV-2 that means it’s time to take precautions like masking up and social distancing. Larsen says the wastewater is able to show a bigger picture of the virus in our community than just looking at case numbers. 

“That wastewater provides an understanding of what COVID is doing when we have home tests when we have vaccine immunity when we have all these things that affect the case data,” Larsen said. 

An important measurement to make sure we’re not letting our guard down too soon.

To see what transmission looks like in your neighborhood you can visit the State’s Wastewater Surveillance Tracker here