DPH issues new guidelines for testing; Wastewater shows drop in Omicron

BOSTON — Whether it’s waiting in a long line to get a PCR COVID test or searching for an at-home COVID test, the state is looking to help ease both of those burdens. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health released new guidelines on testing.

Under the new guidance, Governor Charlie Baker said residents should get tested for COVID under two scenarios: if they’re showing symptoms of COVID-19 and if they’re a confirmed close contact with someone who has COVID. Baker added that people should not get a PCR test to confirm a positive at-home test.

If some are getting a PCR test because they can’t find the at-home test kits anywhere, relief is on the way. Baker announced 26 million rapid COVID tests are coming to the state over the next three months. The governor says these tests are highly accurate. He is also asking employers, schools and child care facilities should stop requiring a PCR test to return to work or school. Despite the long lines at testing sites, the state has no plans to open additional sites.

Just as quickly as it went up, it could come back down. That’s what scientists are saying about the omicron variant here in the US based on the wastewater data they are looking at. Local sewage samples are taken several times a week from the and the levels are showing this could be the beginning of the end of the omicron variant.

A graph from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority shows cases hit their peak right around the holidays. But the latest data from the wastewater tracker shows a 41% drop from levels just last week.

The tracker has served as the earliest predictor for future cases and is able to forecast how much cases will go up and down up to weeks in advance. While we see case numbers start to drop in the next week or so, a professor at Boston University tells the Boston Globe that hospitalizations won’t peak until two to four weeks after that.

Scientists are seeing that cases may have peaked in Britain and the same is about to happen in the US. The reason: the variant was so contagious that it is running out of people to infect.

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