Wastewater study finds substantial increase in amount of COVID-19 in three Sask. cities

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Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan found an increase in the amount of COVID-19 in Saskatoon, Prince Albert, and North Battleford.  (Trevor Bothorel/CBC - image credit)
Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan found an increase in the amount of COVID-19 in Saskatoon, Prince Albert, and North Battleford. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC - image credit)

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan who study Saskatoon wastewater have found a substantial increase in the amount of COVID-19 in the city.

The latest report shows a 45 per cent increase in viral RNA load in Saskatoon water from Aug. 18 to 25 compared to the previous week.

"This increase in viral RNA load is indicative of an increase in SARS-CoV-2 infections in Saskatoon," reads the report, "which – in a partially vaccinated population – may or may not be reflected by an increase in case numbers in upcoming weeks."

Global Institute for Water Security, University of Saskatchewan
Global Institute for Water Security, University of Saskatchewan

Weekly wastewater updates will now include the cities of Prince Alberta and North Battlford.

Both location showed large spikes in viral RNA load.

During the reporting period from Aug. 16 to 23, there was a 413% increase in viral RNA load in Prince Albert's wastewater.

And in North Battleford there was a 13-fold, or 1,230 per cent, week-over-week increase in viral RNA load from Aug. 13 to 20.

In all three cities, the Delta variant is now the only variant of concern detected in wastewater.

The university has worked with Global Water Futures researchers over the last year to monitor wastewater in several Sask. cities, helping to provide an early warning of outbreaks.

According to the study's website, researchers do expect to see a decrease in new cases as vaccination rates increase, which would reduce viral traces in wastewater.

However, they don't expect to see the impact of vaccinations in wastewater yet, with researchers pointing to the fact that Saskatchewan has one of the lowest rates of fully vaccinated residents in Canada.

The study provides weekly reports to the City of Saskatoon, the Saskatchewan Health Authority, and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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