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Orange County wastewater tests show record levels of coronavirus infections

An Orange County wastewater treatment facility. Image: Orange County
An Orange County wastewater treatment facility. Image: Orange County

Lab tests on sewage in Orange County show an unprecedented level of coronavirus infections this week as the highly contagious omicron variant continues to surge.

The Orange County Utilities Director Ed Torres says their data -- from three wastewater plants -- can help predict changes in local cases counts four to 10 days ahead of time.

“Because both symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers of the virus shed remnants in their waste," Torres said in a news release, "this data provides an accurate picture of how the virus is spreading in our community regardless of the number of people tested.”

The state says that Orange County had a 350% increase last week in positive COVID-19 tests compared to the previous week.

These results foreshadow even higher case counts.

In the wastewater samples from Monday, the highest concentration of virus particles was at the Eastern Water Reclamation Facility on South Alafaya Trail.

They more than doubled the previous record set in July.

"While the rapid increase is concerning, I want to stress to our residents, business owners and guests that there are precautions we can take to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings said in a prepared statement.

The latest tests were too close to Christmas to show any spread from holiday gatherings. New test samples were drawn on Thursday, with results expected next week.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.