Wastewater measurements show decreasing COVID-19 levels in the Twin Cities

Levels are also declining in central and southeast Minnesota

A man fills a test tube with a sample of water.
Steve Balogh, principal research scientist at the Metro Plant in St. Paul, prepares samples of wastewater in a lab on Wednesday, March 3. Metropolitan Council environmental services staff extract RNA or genetic material from SARS CoV-2 from the samples, then send it to the University of Minnesota Genomics Center, where scientists measure the amount of viral RNA. Balogh said so far, concentrations of the virus in wastewater have closely mirrored the changing infection rates in the Twin Cities.
Courtesy of Metropolitan Council

COVID-19 levels are on the decline in Twin Cities wastewater, according to the latest surveillance reports.

The Metropolitan Council and University of Minnesota’s Genomic Center continue to combine forces in monitoring Twin Cities wastewater for changes in prevalence of COVID-19.

Friday’s welcome news from the Council: “The viral RNA load in Metro Plant influent decreased by 16% last week compared to the previous week.”

COVID load in Twin Cities metro wastewater
COVID-19 levels measured in Twin Cities wastewater have dropped 16% over the most recent week.
APM Research Lab

The project consistently analyzes samples from the region’s largest wastewater plant, serving 66 communities and nearly two million people. COVID-19 levels measured in metro wastewater have been a leading indicator of the pandemic and strongly correlated with case counts as well as hospitalizations statewide.

The University of Minnesota’s other wastewater tracking project, based at the medical school and tracking data from 40 plants statewide, also shows declines in the Twin Cities, as well as central and southeast Minnesota, for the week ending May 25th.

COVID-19 levels measured in wastewater plants throughout Minnesota
In the most recent week's wastewater data COVID-19 levels are falling in three areas of the state.
APM Research Lab

On the other hand, COVID levels have been rising recently in two wastewater plants in the southwestern counties of Lyon and Nobles as well as three plants serving Beltrami, Clay and Pennington counties in northwestern Minnesota. 

The Minnesota Department of Health’s official COVID-19 case count data shows a steady decline recently with a 7-day average of 1,481 cases reported as of June 3, compared to 1,685 the previous Friday.

Hotspots do remain in some counties according to the data, however. Most notably Pope County in west central Minnesota.

Other findings from the Metropolitan Council’s update on Friday, include that the omicron variant BA.2 now makes of 68% of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA while BA.4 and BA.5 now comprise 12% and 20%, respectively. These newer sub-lineages are thought to be more transmissible, but somewhat less harmful, than previous versions of COVID-19.