The light at the end of the omicron variant tunnel might be seen in the sewage.
The Boston-area COVID-19 wastewater tracker is now taking a major plunge after skyrocketing to record-high levels during the holidays.
The tracker is the earliest predictor for future virus cases in the community. The data gives a community forecast for the next couple of weeks.
“Wow, look at that fall,” Davidson Hamer, a Boston University specialist in infectious diseases, told the Herald as he refreshed the latest wastewater data on Tuesday.
“It’s an encouraging sign,” he added. “Maybe it could be the beginning of the end of omicron.”
After the Boston-area wastewater tracker spiked to astronomical levels during the holidays — when the Y axis had to be increased because it didn’t fit anymore — Massachusetts smashed record-high daily case counts for several days.
More than 24,000 virus infections were reported on three days last week, and more than 60,000 cases were recorded over the weekend. Meanwhile, COVID hospitalizations have climbed to nearly 3,000 patients, which hasn’t happened since the spring of 2020.
“The hope is that omicron is going to fall off fairly quickly,” Hamer said. “And this tracker could be a premonition of what’s to come.”
As fast as the wastewater data went up a few weeks ago, it appears that it’s starting to come down just as quickly.
The latest data from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s study to track wastewater for indicators of COVID shows the south of Boston region daily average is now 6,810 copies of viral RNA per milliliter. That tally is about a 41% drop from the peak level just last week — 11,446 copies of viral RNA per milliliter on Jan. 3.
The northern region daily average is now 5,091 copies of viral RNA per milliliter. That count is also about a 41% decrease from the northern region’s peak last week — 8,644 copies of viral RNA per milliliter on Jan. 5.
The quick drop in the wastewater data is “definitely something to look forward to,” Hamer said.
“The UK is starting to see a decrease now in cases,” he added. “If everybody starts to come down quickly, that’d be fantastic.”
Sewage samples are taken multiple times a week for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority study. The study is being conducted by Biobot Analytics, a spinoff from an MIT research project.