Saskatchewan COVID-19 wastewater numbers show massive decrease

Saskatchewan officials report in the latest epidemiology report that COVID-19 activity is increasing in the province with 1524 new cases, 27 new deaths. LHG

The latest wastewater sampling in three Saskatchewan cities shows huge declines in the amount of COVID-19 present. And the samples didn’t pick up the subvariants scientists previously couldn’t identify.

The viral load dropped 85.3 per cent in Saskatoon, 90.2 per cent in North Battleford and 65.7 per cent in Prince Albert, from the week prior.

Toxicologist John Giesy, team lead at the USask Global Institute for Water Security, which takes the measurements, called the numbers good news.

“In addition to that big relative drop, the actual absolute values are getting back to right where we were when we started this last wave,” he said.

He added that this translates into a lot fewer infected people in the three cities.

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He told Global News the lack of public health mandates coupled with the highly infectious BA.2 Omicron subvariant is what boosted the previous week’s readings so high.

The latest findings from USask show a large decrease in COVID-19 genetic material in Saskatoon. Supplied by John Giesy

As well, the samples didn’t detect the virus material which the team previously couldn’t identify, which accounted for 17.6 per cent in North Battleford in the last reporting period.

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The findings this week show BA.2 once again counts for 100 per cent of the detected virus.

The latest findings also show a large COVID-19 decrease in Prince Albert. Supplied by John Giesy

Giesy said the team is still waiting for official results to come back from the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg with regards to what those mysterious subvariants were, but suspects most of the unidentified virus was BA.3.

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Click to play video: '2 new Omicron sub-variants discovered as COVID-19 cases continue to decline globally: WHO'
2 new Omicron sub-variants discovered as COVID-19 cases continue to decline globally: WHO

He said studies from South Africa and the United Kingdom show, as of now, that BA.3 doesn’t appear to be much more transmissible than the (already highly infectious) BA.2 subvariant.

Finally, the COVID-19 levels in North Battleford also dropped, compared to the previous reporting period. Supplied by John Giesy

“We only had one sample that showed we might have had one of the X recombinants, but we weren’t real sure on that because we weren’t seeing all the mutations,” he said, speaking to another emerging subvariant.

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He told Global News the team will continue monitoring the virus levels in the wastewater to monitor whether the amounts stay low.

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