Wastewater testing shows COVID-19 variant may be more prevalent in Central Florida than first thought

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. — A COVID-19 variant may be more prevalent in Central Florida than first thought.

Since April, the city of Altamonte Springs has been testing its wastewater for COVID-19. The tests can predict upticks in community spread seven days in advance.

READ: Here’s where to find the COVID-19 vaccine in your county

Last week, the city began to also test for the new U.K. variant of the virus.

The department of health confirmed that six people have tested positive in Seminole County for that new U.K variant. But the tests being done at the Altamonte Springs Wastewater Plant found there may be more people walking around with it that don’t even know it.

READ: First UK coronavirus variant cases found in Central Florida: What you need to know about each new variant

“We have discovered that the two most hyper transmissible strains of the U.K. variant are present in our area,” City Manager Frank Martz said.

Martz said while less than 1% of the population the wastewater plant services tested positive for COVID-19, the positivity rate could be as high as 11%.

“And of them, about 4.5%, 4.4% of those people have the U.K. variant,” Martz said.

READ: Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine proves 66% effective

Seminole County Medical Director Dr. Todd Husty said the wastewater results tell an even more troubling story.

“It means there are people who are out there that are asymptomatic even with the variant, so it’s different from the original but it’s not that different,” Husty said.

The Altamonte Springs COVID-19 predictive model is part of the CDC’s national wastewater surveillance project. They are starting to teach others like Seminole County how to test as well.

Jeff Levkulich, WFTV.com

Jeff Levkulich joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in June 2015.

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.