KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Some Missouri hospitals are reporting doubled or tripled COVID-19 case numbers in recent weeks, and health experts say the virus’ Delta variant is likely to blame.
As cases accelerate in more rural areas, specifically southwest Missouri, the Kansas City metro is also bracing for a surge.
FOX4 went to a wastewater treatment plant in the West Bottoms on Wednesday after talking with health leaders about one of the key ways they are monitoring the spread of the delta variant.
They have been using wastewater to study the virus for months now, but the Sewershed Surveillance Project can actually check the wastewater and detect which variants are present.
Currently, they are most concerned about the Delta, but also the Alpha variants. At last check, neither variant was detected at the West Bottoms facility, but at treatment plants just slightly more rural, tests are finding them.
State health leaders are unable to tell how many people are “expelling evidence” of the Delta variant of COVID-19. But they can tell it is present at the Fishing River Wastewater Treatment plant in Liberty.
Those results are also being reported at the Rock Creek Plant in Independence, and in Platte City, local wastewater tested positive as well.
Doctors at the University of Kansas Health System described how those tests are a reflection of another trend during a Facebook broadcast on Monday.
“We know that the vaccine offers protection even against the Delta variant,” Dr. Dana Hawkinson said Wednesday morning.
“In urban areas, the numbers aren’t too bad as far as hospitalizations. In the more rural areas where there’s been less vaccine uptake – I think that is key. This continues to be a behavioral disease. We talked about that early on.”
“Reports out of Springfield about Cox and other hospitals being full and having to actually divert patients to other facilities around because they didn’t have beds for COVID-19 patients,” Dr. Steven Stites said.
One concern is that the positive tests at these wastewater facilities is a harbinger for health issues among the unvaccinated.
“The average hospitalization rate in Springfield is 42 (years old). That’s a lot younger than what we saw before,” Stites said.
Health officials warn the Delta variant is more contagious than other variants of COVID.
In addition, the water at treatment facilities with positive tests is not dangerous or contagious to the public, according to the Missouri Department of Health.