The amount of SARS-CoV-2 virus in sampling of the city’s sewage from the Gloucester Wastewater Treatment Plant is trending down, but the city’s health director cautioned the virus level comes in higher than it was when cases spiked one year ago.
Samples collected over the past two weeks showed concentrations at more than 4 million copies of coronavirus per liter of sewage on Jan. 5, and dropping to just over 2.8 million copies on Jan. 12.
These findings mirror a drop of the seven-day rolling average of new cases of COVID-19 in Essex County, according to reports to the city from Biobot Analytics of Cambridge.
This after a sample taken on Dec. 29 peaked at nearly 9.6 million copies per liter of sewage. The week before, on Dec. 22, that figure was nearly 1.9 million copies per liter of sewage.
Health Director Max Schenk said in an email the concentration of the virus in the wastewater was waning. The next report is due Friday afternoon.
“Although the most recent wastewater sampling results indicate a downward trend in the amount of virus detected,” Schenk said in an email, “levels still remain significantly higher than when there was a spike in cases this time last year.”
The report from one year ago during the winter surge showed a sample collected on Jan. 19, 2021, with concentration of nearly 200,000 copies per liter of sewage.
COVID-19 cases in Gloucester have leveled off in recent weeks. The city’s Health Department reported on Tuesday there were 138 cases from Jan. 17 to 19, down from 143 during the prior three-day reporting period from Jan. 10 to 12. The prior new case figure had been 248.
Total active cases are 157, down from 172 during the prior three-day reporting period. Four residents were hospitalized and there were two new deaths. The city’s positivity rate was nearly 21% from Dec. 26 to Jan. 8. That figure was not updated in the latest report.
Last year about this time, there were 113 active cases, compared with 157 as of Wednesday. The year-to-year number of hospitalizations was four during each time frame.
“We are fortunate the vaccine is now widely available and at a time when the omicron variant had spread so quickly over the holidays — likely keeping hospitalization numbers lower than in other areas,” Schenk said.
While the vaccination rate is high for those who have received their first and second doses, he said the percentage of city residents who have received the booster is “remarkably low.”
The Health Department will be focusing not only on the under-vaccinated, but those in need of a booster shot.
This Saturday, the Health Department, in conjunction with the state Department of Public Health, will host its second pediatric vaccination clinic at Gloucester High School from 1 to 6 p.m. The Health Department also plans another vaccination clinic at the Rose Baker Senior Center on Feb. 3, from 3 to 6 p.m.
Schenk said the message from the Health Department and the CDC is “that vaccination is the best way to keep from suffering the worst impacts of the virus and wearing face coverings remains the best method for preventing the rapid spread of the virus.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-675-2714, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.