‘Concerning’ levels of COVID-19 detected in Florida county wastewater, officials say

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Health officials in Florida’s Orange County said there has been a 600% increase in the levels of COVID-19 RNA concentration detected in the area’s wastewater since sampling began in mid-May. Speaking at a press conference held Monday, the county’s utility director called the numbers “very high” and “very concerning.” 

“Again, the results of the virus RNA that we measure in wastewater indicate that we will see continued clinical cases and hospitalizations this week, even beyond what was reported this weekend,” Ed Torres, director of Orange County Utilities, said. “Please, we urge you to get vaccinated and continue to take the proper precautions.” 

Orange County is one of dozens partaking in national wastewater surveillance in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sampling for SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the water can help predict viral spread, and where an impending outbreak might occur. 

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Torres said having advanced notice on where to expect an uptick in illnesses can help officials prepare resources ahead of time to help stifle the spread. 

He said the concentration levels have been increasing in recent weeks. 

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The area, which is home to about 1.4 million residents, has seen over 65% of individuals ages 12 and older receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said earlier in the press conference that the 14-day COVID-19 positivity is “leveling out” at 20%, and deaths continue to rise. 

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