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Houston Health Department crews testing wastewater at dozens of schools for omicron variant

They'll also conduct tests at Houston-area nursing homes after the omicron variant was found in eight samples of wastewater taken in late November.

HOUSTON — Houston Health Department crews will be out all week testing wastewater samples for the omicron variant of COVID-19

Test results received Monday found omicron in eight Houston wastewater treatment plants in samples taken in late November. Schools in those areas are now being tested.

The information helps them spot and react to emerging outbreaks more quickly.

"The number one thing it allows us to do is to give the hospitals a heads up as to what they can anticipate in about two weeks," said Dr. David Persse, Chief Medical Officer for the City of Houston.

Dr. Persse said they also use that information to redirect resources to neighborhoods with rising viral rates.   

“After we get this data, we deploy teams," said Kendra Davis, an environmental investigator with the Houston Health Department. "We have other teams that go and educate them on how to do more preventative measures and stuff like that, and it also determines where we put our vaccine sites.”

"In many cases, it's been a door-to-door knocking on the door campaign to provide people with information. We've been able to set up vaccination clinics in those neighborhoods," Dr.Persse said.

Crews plan to test wastewater at 60 schools this week. They'll sample about 100 locations overall, including nursing homes,  shelters and jails. The samples will be taken to Rice University to be analyzed. 

Where was omicron found in Houston? 

Samples taken on Nov. 29 and Nov. 30 showed the omicron variant at these eight treatment plants. There are a total of 39 plants in Houston.

Credit: KHOU
  • Chocolate Bayou
  • Keegans Bayou
  • Metro Central
  • Northgate
  • Sims Bayou North
  • Turkey Creek
  • W.C.I.D. #111,
  • West District.

"The Houston Health Department and Houston Water continue to do an exceptional job tracking the impact of the virus in our community. While no specific case of the omicron variant has been confirmed in an individual in the city of Houston, we should use this information as a reminder to get fully vaccinated, including a booster shot," Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday. "Vaccines help protect us, our loved ones, friends, and colleagues in the work environment. As the holidays approach, I encourage everyone to remain vigilant about their health and safety."

RELATED: Woman in NW Harris County tests positive for omicron COVID variant, Judge Hidalgo says

Also Monday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo reported that a woman in her 40s tested positive for the omicron variant. The state's health department said it was the first reported case in the state.

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