COVID-19: Saskatchewan wastewater shows small increases, large amount overall

Toxicologist John Giesy says the amount of COVID-19 in three cities' wastewater is close to the highest the University of Saskatchewan team has recorded. Statistics from University of Saskatchewan

The amount of COVID-19 in the province’s wastewater continues to rise and the total amount remains very high.

The latest numbers from the University of Saskatchewan’s Global Institute for Water Security show the average amount of virus RNA rose 19.3 per cent in Saskatoon, 28.4 per cent in Prince Albert and 29.5 per cent in North Battleford, respectively, over the week prior.

But toxicologist and member of the wastewater surveillance team John Giesy told Global News the slight increases bely a substantial amount of the COVID-19 in the cities.

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We’re still one-and-a-half to two times higher than we’ve ever been before,” he said.

Saskatoon likely has passed the peak amount of the virus, Giesy said. The wastewater team collects samples three times a week, on Friday, Sunday and Wednesday. The amount of COVID tends to rise on Fridays and be lower on the other two days. The increase ahead of the weekend accounts for the overall boost.

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He predicted the other two cities will likely start to see less COVID in the wastewater in a matter of weeks.

But those predictions, he specified, only hold with the current level of public health guidelines.

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“I don’t know what will happen now if the province just opens everything up, whether we’ll see another bump,” he said.

“I’m just saying from our perspective, that could sort of spread things out a little bit more.”

The other wild card, as he called it, is the more transmissible sublineage of Omicron, BA.2.

Last week the wastewater surveillance team detected trace amounts of BA.2.

The team developed a new method to test for the sublineage and have started using it. They will likely see clearer results in next week’s analyses.

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Saskatchewan COVID-19 restriction lifting plan expected Tuesday

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