Summer Revelry in California Leads to Rise in Covid Cases, Wastewater Traces Reveal

WastewaterSCAN data detects increasing viral levels, with San Francisco showing the largest summertime spike in Covid cases.

California As California enjoys the height of summer with parties, concerts, and blockbuster movies, the state is experiencing a concerning trend: rising Covid-19 cases. New data from WastewaterSCAN, a program tracking pathogens in municipal sewer treatment plants, indicates a slow increase in viral levels across the region.

San Francisco, in particular, has witnessed the state’s largest summertime surge in Covid cases, surpassing all other cities in California by the end of July, according to the WastewaterSCAN report. The San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) uses wastewater data to monitor trends and verify local case numbers.

While health authorities acknowledge the uptick in Covid-19 rates, they assure the public that current infection levels remain lower than in previous years. The DPH spokesperson emphasized that individuals who are fully vaccinated are not expected to experience severe disease or hospitalizations.

However, the rise in Covid cases is not confined to the Bay Area alone. By late July, sewer sheds in Los Angeles County and other regions in Southern California also reported their own spikes. Experts believe the “XBB” Covid variant, known as “Arcturus” by some, is driving the surge.

WastewaterSCAN first detected this variant in San Francisco’s wastewater in January, and public health experts predicted it would become the dominant strain in the Bay Area during the summer.

The tweet below verifies the news:

Other California municipalities, including Palo Alto, San Bernardino, San Rafael, Sausalito, Half Moon Bay, Lancaster, Los Banos, Riverside, and Turlock, are also witnessing a substantial increase in Covid cases based on wastewater data.

Despite the rise in cases, the present Covid levels in wastewater are below the rates observed during the winter flu season in some areas, such as Alameda County.

It is important to note that not all California counties screen their wastewater for Covid and other pathogens. Wastewater SCAN collaborates with 58 sewer shed plants across the state, but jurisdictions north of Sacramento do not currently participate in the program.

In response to the data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokesperson, Kathleen Conley, acknowledged the overall low Covid-19 rates in the United States after a prolonged period of decline. She stated that increases in Covid-19 cases have been observed during the past three summers, making the current uptick unsurprising.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health urges all residents to remain cautious by staying up-to-date on vaccinations, having a supply of test kits, keeping masks handy during periods of high community spread, and knowing how to reach a doctor promptly in case of Covid-19 symptoms. The department also emphasizes the importance of obtaining Paxlovid treatment if one tests positive for Covid-19.

As California grapples with this resurgence, health authorities continue to monitor the situation closely to protect public health and safety during the summer months.

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