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Met Council looks for — and finds — omicron in metro sewage – Twin Cities



The Metropolitan Council is looking for — and finding — omicron in sewage.

That’s the simplest way to explain how the metro’s regional planning agency — which treats 250 million gallons of wastewater sewage daily — is helping track the prevalence of the fast-growing omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, commonly referred to as COVID-19.

Since the early days of the pandemic, research scientists at the Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant in St. Paul have monitored evidence of COVID in the sewage that comes pouring in from 111 communities. They’ve since added the omicron variant to their study. As of a week prior to Christmas, Minnesota Department of Health officials reported that testing had detected omicron in a relatively small but growing number of COVID-19 cases.


The wastewater samples are stored in small vials, frozen at 112F below zero, and delivered weekly to research partners at the University of Minnesota Genomics Center.

Samples are also shared with the University of Minnesota Medical School and the Centers for Disease Control National Wastewater Surveillance System for independent analysis.

The testing does not confirm individual cases, and it doesn’t provide detailed information about how and where outbreaks occur. But research scientists consider it an unbiased measure of disease prevalence within the metro area and a general supplement to traditional in-person testing.

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