The CDC found evidence of the Omicron mutation in New York City wastewater on November 21st, The New York Times reports. Researchers in California and Texas also found evidence of Omicron in wastewater samples from late November.
This is the day before the new variant is announced by South African scientists, 10 days before the first US case is reported.
Although New York City’s infectious diseases fell by 46% last week, New York City still has the highest mortality rate in the country. That’s because death and hospitalization are always lagging behind cases.
The findings suggest that at the time, the Omicron variant was more widespread in the United States than the case data alone would indicate, and provide more evidence that wastewater surveillance can serve as an early warning system about the spread of new variants.
“At first it was uncertain whether this variant was going to come to the United States,” said Alexandria Boehm, an environmental engineer at Stanford and an author of the paper. “The wastewater answered that question way before the clinical samples could, and the answer was yes.”
This isn’t proof, just strong evidence.
“The virus present in wastewater is fragmented, and while the researchers detected many of Omicron’s telltale mutations, the findings do not prove that they were all present on the same genome,” the Times reports.
According to the Times, “a team of scientists from several institutions — John Dennehy at Queens College, Monica Trujillo at Queensborough Community College, Davida Smyth at Texas A&M University and Marc Johnson at the University of Missouri — have been tracking the coronavirus in New York City’s wastewater since the summer of 2020.” The November 21st sample showed the Omicron variant mutations.
Cali found it on November 26th with PCR tests.