Houston wastewater indicates omicron is soaring as rapid tests deemed less reliable

HOUSTON – The city of Houston knows a lot of you are infected with Omicron, and they don’t even need your test results to prove it. They’ve been collecting wastewater samples since July 2020.

The previous highest peak of COVID cases detected in the wastewater was on July 6, 2020, and that set the threshold (100%) for all measurements thereafter.

According to the health department, the virus load is now 546% of the baseline, which is up from 142% last week and 76% the previous week.

However, early data from other countries indicates omicron infections may disappear as fast as they showed up, leaving many to believe it’s highly contagious but maybe not as dangerous.

The World Health Organization and local leaders insist that mentality may bring healthcare systems to the brink of a collapse.

“Unfortunately, it’s not mild for everybody. Just by sheer numbers, if we have 80% of the population infected and 10 to 15% of them are going to end up in the hospital, we’re going to fill up the hospitals again just by sheer numbers,” said Chief of Infectious Disease at UT Health Dr. Luis Ostrosky.

“I want everyone to remember that a small percentage of a really big number is still a big number, and so our hospitals need to be able to be functional for everyone,” Dr. David Persse, Houston Health Authority, emphasized.

To stop the spread, the best solution would be to test and know when you’re infected, according to doctors.

Right now, Houston is experiencing long lines of people waiting for tests and there’s a lack of rapid tests available in pharmacies. Also, there’s new information from the FDA that indicates rapid tests aren’t even that successful in detecting omicron.

According to the FDA, Antigen tests (aka rapid tests) “do detect the omicron variant but may have reduced sensitivity,” which could lead to a “false negative result.”

However, if you’re positive and have symptoms, Dr. Ostrosky said it is a good indicator that you have COVID.