COVID by the community: new localized data shows virus levels in Calgary wastewater

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A University of Calgary study tracking COVID-19 levels in wastewater has expanded, showing more detailed information on where traces of the virus are being found. Sarah Offin has details – May 7, 2021

A joint research project between the University of Calgary, City of Calgary and Alberta Health Services monitoring COVID-19 levels in wastewater is expanding.

The study has accurately predicted case numbers almost a week ahead of time since the project launched in July of 2020. Since then, it has tracked traces of SARS-CoV-2 found in three different wastewater collection zones in Calgary.

“Peak viral shedding in wastewater occurs right at the immediate time prior to someone developing symptoms,” said Dr. Michael Parkins from Cumming School of Medicine. “We get a six day lead signal. And our signal has strongly correlated with clinical cases.”

Read more: New website lets Calgarians track traces of COVID-19 in their wastewater

The Centre for Health Informatics website, which updates data in real time, now also details more localized information with samples being taken from a combination of communities six different areas:

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  • Saddle Ridge, Taradale and Martindale
  • Castleridge and Falconridge
  • McKenzie Town, New Brighton, Copperfield, Auburn Bay, Cranston, and part of Mahogany
  • Sundance and Chaparral
  • Altadore, Garrison Woods and Currie Barracks
  • Huntington Hills and Thorncliffe
While northeast Calgary has long been a hotspot for COVID-19 cases throughout the pandemic, the data shows much fewer traces of the virus in Castleridge and Falconridge compared to nearby Saddle Ridge, Taradale and Martindale.

“What we have seen since March is a steady increase in wastewater stereoscopy to levels across the board at all sites, although certain areas disproportionate to others,” said Parkins. “In particular, northeast Calgary continues to be an area where there’s a lot of  SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater.”

There also appears to be particularly high levels of the virus in Huntington Hills and Thorncliffe, and a recent increase in communities in South Calgary.

“We had seen a higher value in South Calgary relative to what we’ve observed in the past, but entirely consistent with the rest of what we’ve observed in the City of Calgary. And again, it’s all much greater than what we had seen, even at the peak of wave two.”

The City of Calgary collects wastewater samples twice every week and the data is forwarded directly to the health minister’s office to inform policy on public health measures and targeted messaging.

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