By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Scientist Steven Balogh studies wastewater from the Metro Plant in St. Paul, that collects from nearly two million people from 66 cities.

The plant measures the amount of virus that the population sheds going to the bathroom. That viral amount is now declining.

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“It’s dropping very rapidly from what were the highest levels we had seen at any point throughout the pandemic by far,” said Balogh, who works in research and development for the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services.

Eight tiny sample tubes are collected from the millions of gallons of water that come into the plant each day and sent to genome researchers at the University of Minnesota. The samples are analyzed twice a week right now.

The amount of virus in the wastewater has been going down since Jan. 9. The number of cases have typically lagged around six to eight days.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s promising,” Balogh said.

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Mayo Clinic’s Modeling Team projects Minnesota’s Omicron cases will peak around next week. The wastewater data suggests the metro may have already hit the peak.

“What we might find here might be different than what they find in Duluth or in San Francisco,” Balogh said.

Scientists agree there will be a rapid decline in cases similar to what’s happening in New York. After that, it’s too early to say.

Experts hope the virus will become endemic by fading into the background, with future surges being less severe.

“It’s starting to come down, but that doesn’t mean it won’t turn around and go back up,” he said.

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The data from the wastewater collection is also shared with the Minnesota Department of Health.

Kate Raddatz