SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The Omicron variant in our local wastewater is now a reality for the cities of Sacramento and Merced. Scientists confirmed the discovery this week and gave public health leaders a heads up.

But what exactly does this mean?

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A team of scientists have been monitoring the wastewater for COVID and its variants across ten cities in Northern and Central California. They’ve been doing so every day for more than a year.

“Over the past week in Sacramento, we have seen three days with low concentrations of markers that are specifically associated with Omicron,” said Dr. Marlene Wolff, one of the researchers behind the project.

The samples that she found were discovered sometime between November 30th and December 4th.

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“We feel very confident in saying that we’ve seen Omicron in the wastewater, and that’s the kind of information that will really help public health officials know how to target their clinical testing to confirm what we’re seeing and then also to understand the impact, in terms of the disease in the community,” Wolff said.

Local experts said that these findings were “significant,” however, it is still too early to know how widespread Omicron really is or its severity.

As usual, the best way to fight this new variant is following the usual safety precautions.

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An important note—experts say you cannot catch COVID or the Omicron variant from wastewater. Researchers are only looking at genetic markers to see what people in the community have been infected with. So, there is no risk.