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Researchers detect near-record levels of COVID in Missouri wastewater

“I think things are going to get worse in Missouri before they get better,” said Johnson.

ST. LOUIS — Researchers have now detected the omicron variant in every wastewater facility in the Show-Me State, and while the data is alarming researchers say there may be a silver lining.

“There’s a lot you can learn from a little bit of sewage,” said University of Missouri Professor Marc Johnson.

Unfortunately, professor Marc Johnson says the data they’re collecting on COVID across Missouri stinks.

“A lot of places are seeing all-time highs since the beginning,” said Johnson.

At MSD Lemay, which services downtown St. Louis, he watched as the viral load went up nearly 800% in just two weeks.

“It says to me there are a lot more people infected,” said Johnson.

That’s why the numbers from the Coldwater Creek Wastewater Plant in North County hitting record highs are causing so much concern.

“I think things are going to get worse in Missouri before they get better,” said Johnson.

Johnson said their research shows delta and omicron have become the dominant strains of the virus in Missouri, but that’s not all they’re detecting.

“We have come across lineages before that we don’t know where they’re coming from,” said Johnson.  “Whether we’re going to spot pi, I think is what comes next, if it starts in Missouri we’ll see it first.”

However, Johnson said there may be a silver lining once you analyze the data.

“The pandemic is going to be over when people stop getting hospitalized,” said Johnson.  “That’s going to happen when everyone has been vaccinated. The reality is they can be vaccinated, but the reality is they can be vaccinated the modern way or the old-fashioned way.  I don’t think there will be too many people that are going to get through this wave without any immunity.”

As for what that means for their predictive models moving forward.

“There’s a good chance this is the last major wave that’s going to cause hospitalizations and deaths,” said Johnson.

If you would like to take a look at what's in the wastewater in your area Mizzou posts results once per week.