Wastewater testing shows most local COVID-19 cases now Omicron

Omicron variant graphic
Omicron variant graphic(Associated Press)
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 4:59 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -Almost all new COVID-19 cases are likely the Omicron variant, the Washoe County Health District reported Wednesday.

It bases that assessment on University of Nevada, Reno researchers who are checking for the variant in Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility wastewater. The facility on the eastern side of the valley just south of Interstate 80 processes most wastewater for the area.

Only a portion of the COVID-19 tests on people are screened for the presence of the Omicron variant, which so far has been shown to be milder than other versions of the virus but spreads much easier.

Omicron showed up in the wastewater on Dec. 12 but it wasn’t detected by a COVID-19 test until Dec. 20, the health district said.

“Based on the wastewater sampling almost all of the current new cases should be considered to be Omicron,” the district said in a statement.

The samples are collected from 12 sewer sites all over the region. Cases jumped dramatically during the Christmas holidays and has increased 10-fold in the last several months.

“This data is predictive of the significant increase in new cases that we are currently experiencing,” Kevin Dick, district health officer, said in a statement. “We hope people will understand that COVID-19 is still impacting the community. Omicron is here in a big way and receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, and booster when eligible is what’s going to help us get through this pandemic in the safest way possible.”

The health district recommends testing if you are showing signs of COVID-19 or were in close contact (6 feet or less for 15 minutes) to a positive case.

Testing is available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at:

  • Bartley Ranch Regional Park, 6000 Bartley Ranch Rd, Reno
  • Eagle Canyon Park, 400 Eagle Canyon Drive, Spanish Springs
  • South Valleys Regional Park, 15650 Wedge Pkwy, Reno
  • North Valleys Regional Park, 8085 Silver Lake Rd, Reno

Or at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

And at other locations.

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