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Ashtabula, Ohio, Wastewater Shows Elevated Levels of COVID

Tests have not shown elevated levels since April. This sustained increase in viral load demonstrates that there may be community increased COVID-19 transmission.

(TNS) - In an ongoing effort to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, a network across Ohio continues to study samples of wastewater to look for the presence of fragments from the virus.

An upward trend of viral gene copies has been detected in the Ashtabula sewer shed, which serves the city of Ashtabula and parts of Saybrook and Ashtabula townships.

The waste water testing showed a sustained increase from June 28 to July 17.

“We have not seen elevated levels since April,” City Manager Jim Timonere said. “This sustained increase in viral load demonstrates that there may be community increased transmission and citizens are cautioned to follow safe COVID-19 protocols.”

Residents should be on alert and remain vigilant in their efforts to social distance, wear face coverings and adhere to prevention efforts such as frequent hand-washing and sanitizing, he said.

This emerging information is being used by the Ashtabula City and the Ashtabula County health departments in conjunction with community case numbers and other COVID-19 related data to further inform decisions as officials respond to the pandemic.

The health departments have alerted healthcare providers, nursing homes and other shared-living facilities to be prepared for a potential increase in cases, said Christine Hill, commissioner of the Ashtabula City Health Department.

“Our department continues to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to help folks keep up to date on their vaccination,” Hill said. “Vaccination is still the best protection against COVID-19.”

The increase of COVID-19 cases in communities is typically tracked by testing people with symptoms, an indicator that lags behind the actual spread of the disease.

However, research has shown that non-infectious RNA (ribonucleic acid) from the virus that cause COVID-19 can be detected in wastewater as many as three to seven days before those infections lead to increases in case counts or hospitalizations.

The Ohio Department of Health reports a “medium” community level in Ashtabula County, meaning the ODH recommends residents wear a mask if you have symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19. You may choose to wear a mask at any time as an additional precaution to protect yourself and others. If you are at high risk for severe illness, consider wearing a mask indoors in public and taking additional precautions.

More than 2 million Ohioans have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the ODH.

©2022 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.