Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Tioga and Cortland counties soon will have health officials taking a closer look at what is traveling through their sewer systems.

New York State plans to start testing wastewater in all counties across New York State for variants of the coronavirus and track changes in concentration.

Getty Images/ wildpixel
Getty Images/ wildpixel

During a news conference with Governor Kathy Hochul, State Health Commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett and Chief of the Laboratory of Viral Diseases at the Wadsworth Center, Dr. Kirsten St. George assured residents that the state is monitoring the BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 but is not “in an alarmist mode.”

The sub-variant, that some are calling: “stealth Omicron”, is responsible for an uptick in cases, making up about 42 percent in the state and rising over the past couple of months.

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Dr. St. George says wastewater surveillance is an important tool in addition to human clinical samples to monitor the prevalence of COVID.  More than 50 counties are being monitored and the program is to be expanded to all 62 counties and include sequence analysis for distinguishing variants.

Meanwhile Dr. Bassett and the Governor stress that vaccines continue to be a critical tool as COVID continues to change and new treatments are available for people who do get sick.  Doctor Bassett says people should take advantage of those treatments and contact their physician if they get sick so they can take advantage of those new treatments to avoid more serious illness.

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