Saskatoon wastewater samples show COVID-19 case numbers could drop over the coming weeks: researchers

A drop in COVID-19 remnants found in Saskatoon's wastewater could signal that case levels may plateau or even decrease over the coming weeks.

In their most recent round of sampling, University of Saskatchewan researchers found a 70 per cent weekly decrease in viral RNA load in Saskatoon’s wastewater.

Much of the RNA load, 70 per cent, is contributed by the B.1.1.7 variant of concern, first found in the U.K., an 18 per cent decrease compared to results released last week.

The P1 variant, first identified in Brazil, was likely present, but too small to quantify, the researchers said in their latest update.

Between April 16 and 20, the researchers had detected a 312 per cent weekly increase in viral RNA load, which they said predicted an increase in new cases.

The researchers assume the spike in viral load in the previous reporting period corresponded to the increase in new cases from April 25 to May 2.

As of Sunday, Saskatoon had 480 active cases according to the Saskatchewan Health Authority – up from 451 a week earlier, but less than the recent peak of 524 on April 20.

The lowest number of active cases in Saskatoon this year was on March 23 with 191.