June 27, 2022



Houston wastewater indicates rise in COVID-19 throughout Bayou City

2 min read

Houston is experiencing an increase of suspected COVID-19 cases, according to the latest findings in the city’s wastewater. 

Each week, the city and researchers at Rice University pull samples from each of the city’s wastewater treatment facilities and test it for the virus, a grueling task of public service they’ve been performing since summer 2020. The findings help the Houston Health Department identify which communities are experiencing higher cases. 

Wastewater findings from May 23, which is the most recent data available, show COVID-19 numbers have risen across the city. COVID-19 concentration levels are up 242 percent from where they were in July 2020, when Houston communities experienced a “high COVID-19 burden.” The suspected positivity rate is 14 percent of tests, according to the analysis. 

All but eight of the city of Houston's wastewater treatment plants tested with increased COVID-19 levels on May 23, 2022. 

All but eight of the city of Houston’s wastewater treatment plants tested with increased COVID-19 levels on May 23, 2022. 

City of Houston

The wastewater was tested again Monday, but findings were not immediately published. 

When you flush, wastewater is sent to one of the city’s dozens of treatment plants. Each week, researchers take samples from each plant and test the wastewater for RNA fragments of the virus, which is found in the stool of a person infected with the virus. Scientists calculate the concentration of those RNA fragments inside the sample, which indicates how much concentration of the virus is in the community that feeds any specific plant. 

When COVID-19 concentration levels started to spike in March 2021 across Houston, the numbers decreased by the end of May and spiked again in mid- to late-June, according to the data. This year, however, concentration levels have been steadily increasing since the beginning of March, archived reports show. 

Dr. Ericka Brown, director of the health department’s Community Health and Wellness Division, told the Houston Chronicle that despite the increase in concentration levels, Houston’s hospitals are experiencing a low rate of hospitalization. 

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