Wastewater testing: COVID will worsen before improving

Nov 6, 2020

SHERIDAN — A question has been dogging Sheridan County since a local woman was the first Wyoming resident to be diagnosed with COVID-19 this spring: What does the future hold?

The answer to that question may be found in the 2.5 million gallons of wastewater processed each day at the Sheridan Wastewater Treatment Plant, and it isn’t promising.

According to predictions made based on local wastewater testing, the number of locals diagnosed and hospitalized with COVID-19 will likely climb throughout November. The estimated infection rate in the county, determined by sifting through composite samples of local wastewater for COVID-19 biological material, has increased nearly six-fold since the first sample was taken in the county  July 24 and the estimated infection rate was 1%. In the most recently recorded sample Oct. 28, the estimated infection rate was 5.8%.


“Certainly, the wastewater samples in Sheridan and in most cities in the state are trending up,” said Franz Fuchs, policy analyst with the Wyoming Department of Health, who noted that there’s a lot of uncertainty in the estimated infection rate and  the trends were more valuable than the estimated numbers. “That means things are going to get worse before they get better.”

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