Orange County sees ‘historic increase’ of COVID-19 in wastewater, officials say

Data from samples taken Monday

Omicron now dominant COVID variant in Orange County wastewater

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A “historic increase” of COVID-19 has been recorded in wastewater service areas in Orange County as cases continue to surge as a result of the omicron variant, according to county officials.

New data released Thursday shows the levels from three areas are more than double than previous record highs. As of Wednesday, the following service areas had these levels reported:

  • Eastern Water Reclamation Facility = 8,284,036 gene copies per liter
  • South Water Reclamation Facility = 7,608,370 gene copies per liter
  • Northwest Water Reclamation Facility = 4,265,135 gene copies per liter

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“Before this week, the highest number of viral remnants in gene copies recorded was 3 million at the Eastern Water Reclamation Facility in July 2021; 1 million at the South Water Reclamation Facility in August 2021; and 2.8 million at the Northwest Water Reclamation Facility in September 2021,” the county said in a release.

The new data is from samples taken on Monday, which officials said is too soon to attribute the substantial increase to holiday gatherings for Christmas.

“This data helps predict infections four to 10 days before we see changes in our community’s caseload, allowing county leadership and medical professionals to adjust public health resources accordingly,” Ed Torres, director of Orange County Utilities, said in a release. “Because both symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers of the virus shed remnants in their waste, this data provides an accurate picture of how the virus is spreading in our community regardless of the number of people tested.”

Officials said earlier this month the omicron variant was officially the dominant variant in the county wastewater treatment plants.

Altamonte Springs officials also reported Wednesday new data from samples collected Monday show “the highest prevalence we have recorded” of COVID-19, naming omicron the dominant variant in the system.

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.