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Palm Springs says coronavirus spread could be worse than reported based on wastewater detection

The City of Palm Springs says coronavirus cases could be worse than reported based on the amount of the virus found in the city's wastewater.

The city cited a document of its findings during Thursday's council meeting.

According to the document, there has been a spike in coronavirus per liter found in the city's Wastewater Treatment sewer system.

The city currently has 1,626 cases with about 455 active cases, according to the county. But according to the amount measured in wastewater, the city could have from 3,093 to 13,720 cases.

“Based on the concentration of COVID in the wastewater, they develop a range of estimates of how many positive cases that might represent. Now remember, a lot of people are asymptomatic, so they don’t know they’re positive but they shed the virus into the sewer system,” said Marcus Fuller, Palm Springs' assistant city manager.

The Palm Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant collects samples every Monday and Tuesday. The city has been working with a lab in Colorado called GT molecular to analyze the data. The latest numbers estimate there are nearly 6,000 cases in Palm Springs alone. 

“The science isn’t exact,” Palm Springs City Manager Dr. David Ready admits.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wastewater surveillance can be a tool in better understanding the spread of coronavirus within communities. According to the CDC, wastewater testing has been used in the past for early detection of diseases, like polio. 

The City of Palm Springs cited these findings as a reason for people to take state and county health guidelines seriously.

“This is a matter of life and death, and so we strongly ask all of our residents to take this seriously and do everything you can to follow these orders and stay at home unless it’s absolutely necessary,” said Mayor Christy Holstege.

“The data is scary. And if there are as many as 6,000 active cases in Palm Springs today, all of us need to step back and recognize the danger that we are in as a community and as a country,” said Lisa Middleton, Palm Springs City Council Mayor Pro Tem.

“Basically reinforce the reason we’re in a regional shelter-in-place order… because of the prevalence of COVID, at least demonstrated in our wastewater,” said Fuller.

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Taylor Begley

Taylor Begley is a Sports Anchor and Reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. You can also catch her anchoring weather on the weekends. Learn more about Taylor here.


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