Houston Health Department

Houston Health Department testing city wastewater for Omicron variant


November 30, 2021

HOUSTONĀ - The Houston Health Department is now testing the city’s wastewater for the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. The variant was not detected in the most recent round of wastewater samples collected the week of November 22.

The health department tests the city’s wastewater weekly for the virus that causes COVID-19, including variants. 

“Testing wastewater will help us stay fully aware and prepared for the Omicron variants presence throughout Houston. This proactive measure by the Houston Health Department is another indication of the City’s dedication to protecting Houstonians,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Although our team has not detected Omicron in Houston, we should anticipate it arriving, and the health department is prepared to scale its operations as needed to respond. In the meantime, I encourage eligible Houstonians to get fully vaccinated.”

There are currently no confirmed cases of Omicron in Houston.

Health officials and the scientific community are researching whether Omicron is more transmissible, causes more serious illness, or evades vaccine protection compared to other variants. Results are expected in coming weeks.

“While we await data to show the level of threat from Omicron, it’s important to remember that vaccination is our best tool to reduce cases, prevent serious illness and death, and slow the emergence of new variants,” said Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer for the City of Houston. “If you are not fully vaccinated or if you are eligible for a booster, please do it now to protect yourself, your family, and our community.”

The health department offers all doses of COVID-19 vaccines to eligible people (ages 5+) at its vaccination sites. Vaccination is free and does not require proof of residency.

A list of health department vaccination sites is available at houstonhealth.org or by calling 832-393-4220. Vaccine is also readily available at pharmacies and doctor offices.

If the variant is detected in wastewater or a case confirmed in a Houstonian, the health department will promptly announce it.