Saskatoon

Latest wastewater studies show COVID-19 levels remain high in Saskatoon, Regina

COVID-19 monitoring studies from the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina continue to show high levels of the virus in wastewater.

Results show viral load dropping, professor not sure why levels continue to be high

A look at the UV filtering system used at the City of Saskatoon's wastewater treatment plant. (Submitted by the City of Saskatoon)

COVID-19 monitoring studies from the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina continue to show high levels of the virus in wastewater.

John Giesy, a toxicology professor at the U of S and one of the study's main researchers, said numbers are coming down from a massive spike first recorded last week, but that there continues to be a lot of evidence of COVID-19 in the province.

"We're still at a pretty high level — almost the highest we've ever seen back to the last wave," said Giesy.

According to the latest study released Monday, viral load in Saskatoon's samples were sitting at an average of 64,641 per 100 mL, levels comparable to the beginning of the most recent wave of COVID-19, which started in January.

Last month's high levels came as a surprise to Giesy. Previously, he had predicted that levels would drop dramatically by mid-February and continue to sit at very low levels.

The latest information from the University of Saskatchewan shows a reduction of COVID-19 in Saskatoon's wastewater after a sharp rise the week before. (Global Institute for Water Security)

He believes the spike could be due to people relaxing their vigilance on gatherings and masking before the public health order was officially lifted on Monday.

"I think that spike that we had was related to people sort of getting ahead of the premier," said Giesy.

"I think a lot of people just said full speed ahead. People basically were done with COVID."

While levels remain high, the report showed they seem to be declining. The latest report showed that Saskatoon's COVID-19 numbers had declined by 62 per cent compared to the previous week, while North Battleford's numbers had declined by 31 per cent.

Giesy said the decline is promising, but he wants to see more data before making a firm prediction.

"Next week, we'll know. If we get two days in a row where it's down, then we'll probably be able to say it's on its way down."

A similar study at the University of Regina showed that viral levels had dropped but remain high.

The latest information from the University of Regina's COVID study shows levels remain high. (University of Regina/Facebook)

Giesy said there continues to be evidence of the BA-2 Omicron variant in Saskatoon and North Battleford, although it's difficult to say precisely how much is present. Research from Europe has shown BA-2 is about 1.5 times more transmissible than the dominant variety of Omicron in Saskatchewan.

He said it's difficult to tell exactly how much BA-2 is in the community, as the variant shares genetic information with the original form of Omicron.

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