Houston has detected the omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 in eight of its wastewater treatment facilities, confirming the new strain is spreading in the city.
A Harris County resident was the first person in Texas to test positive for the variant Monday. She was fully vaccinated and did not report any recent travel history, officials have said.
City officials have been sampling wastewater facilities since last year, another metric to help the Health Department gauge the virus’s spread in Houston. People shed the virus through feces even if they are not symptomatic or have not tested positive, providing a truer picture than test results. It is also an early indicator, often presaging positivity rate and hospitalizations by weeks.
The city said the wastewater findings renew the need to get fully vaccinated and are cause for concern, but not panic.
“The Houston Health Department and Houston Water continue to do an exceptional job tracking the impact of the virus in our community,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “Vaccines help protect us, our loved ones, friends, and colleagues in the work environment. As the holidays approach, I encourage everyone to remain vigilant about their health and safety.”
See here and here for the background, and here for the Houston Health Department press release. I find it comforting to know that when all else fails, you can count on the wastewater treatment plants.