Wastewater Data Provides Insight Into COVID Case Peak

Featured Faculty: Kara L. Nelson


Since summer 2020, Covid-WEB has been tracking the spread of the coronavirus by monitoring wastewater sites across California, including within the San Francisco Bay Area. Covid-WEB samples wastewater for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which can indicate the presence of the COVID-19 disease in a community. This early detection can help communities respond to the virus or new variants before an outbreak. 

While several indicators suggest that COVID-19 cases may be declining in the Bay Area, recent analysis by Covid-WEB suggests there are areas that may have yet to peak. The data show increasing concentrations of COVID-19 within the regions of El Sobrante and San Pablo; Antioch, Martinez and Pittsburg; and San Rafael’s Canal District.

Professor Kara Nelson, who leads Covid-WEB, says the data is most effective at revealing trends across several weeks, and that more analysis is needed before confirming rising transmission numbers in these three regions.

However, health experts are taking the data seriously, including Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis. He acknowledges that the Canal District has seen rates of transmission that are generally higher than other areas of the county, and that the neighborhood is home to a large Latino population that has less control over its risk of exposure due to its economic and living circumstances. 

Click here for the San Francisco Chronicle's recent coverage of Covid-WEB.