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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More than half of community waste water samples tested in Missouri from the week of Dec. 20 showed presence of the omicron variant, according to The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

DHSS partners with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the University of Missouri – Columbia, wastewater operators, and others to monitor COVID-19 trends by testing wastewater in communities throughout the state.

For nearly a year, testing wastewater samples have been looked at for the presence of variants of COVID-19.

Sequencing tests identified the first presence of the Omicron variant from two sets of sewershed samples collected on Dec. 7-8 in Jackson County and Buchanan County.

In both wastewater systems, COVID-19 viral strands were identified as having mutations associated with omicron which indicated that the omicron variant virus is likely present among the population in these sewershed areas.

“Our robust program for monitoring COVID-19 through sewershed sampling provides us with reliable information regarding the presence of the virus and its variants,” said DHSS Director Donald Kauerauf.

“The existence of the omicron variant is becoming much more prevalent each week, making the actions of COVID-19 individual testing, vaccination and other mitigation measures more important as we already face the threat of the delta variant and an increase in flu cases.”

DHSS continues recommending that people follow prevention strategies such as wearing a mask in public indoor settings, frequent hand washing and maintaining physical distance from others. 

“Gatherings are continuing during this holiday season, and I highly encourage testing before and after these events and any travels to help limit any unintended spread of the virus,” Kauerauf said.

“If you’re not feeling well, stay home and don’t risk getting your loved ones sick. It is important for individuals to plan ahead when identifying a location and advance timing needed to get tested, as there is a growing demand for these services.”