OXNARD, Calif. -- The City of Oxnard is studying sewage to better understand the COVID-19 virus. Two mutations have already been found through the testing in recent weeks.
It's here at the sewer treatment facility in Oxnard that nearly 20 million gallons of human waste is processed, treated and released into the ocean. It is also here where COVID testing is taking place.
“Ever since the pandemic, we have been looking for innovative ways to understand more about the virus,” said Alexander Hamilton, the Oxnard Fire Chief. “We want to understand its spread and hopefully come up with ways to help protect our residents.”
Hamilton initiated a weekly waste water study.
"Our facility here takes samples of the waste water as it comes into the facility,” said Hamilton. “They already do a daily testing log. They just pull a little sample out for us to send to our lab in Colorado for COVID testing.”
Just last week test results came back showing the United Kingdom variant is likely in Oxnard.
“The first time we tested for it, one of those two mutations was present, but not the second one,” said Hamilton. “The second test we did the following week, both mutations were present which would indicate that it is likely the UK variant.”
“This is concerning because of the increased transmissibility,” said Dr. Robert Levin, who is the Ventura County Public Health Officer. “It is controllable by doing the same things that we are always supposed to be doing, that is wearing mask and social distancing. It is not more deadly. People who receive the vaccine will find that the vaccine is effective.”
More studies are underway to confirm if it is the UK strain. In the meantime these findings provide critical information.
“We saw an immediate spike right around Thanksgiving, and Christmas and so that allowed us to do some forward planning with St. John's Regional Center and Public Health so we could start making plans for what we knew was coming,” said Hamilton. “In the next few weeks we will also test for the South African variant. We are just waiting for our lab to perfect that test.”