SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Scientists from the University of California at San Diego and Scripps Research are predicting a spike in COVID-19 cases after studying wastewater samples from a local treatment plant.

Collected specimens are revealing higher virus levels specifically the BA.5 subvariant responsible for most of the cases now being diagnosed, according to data updated Thursday on the website of the SEARCH Coalition, which stands for San Diego Epidemiology and Research for COVID Health.

Data shows researchers have detected a 91-percent hike in samples carrying the virus compared to previous weeks.

The materials are said to have been collected at the same spot in Point Loma, where the city of San Diego has a large wastewater treatment plant.

In the past, this has been a precursor and a way to predict a spike in future cases.

“We have every expectation that cases are eventually going to start rising the same way,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the deputy public health director for San Diego County, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“We want everyone to step up,” he said. “We want folks to get their shots and consider the events that they have to do and the events that they don’t, we want the general public to get that good quality, well-fitting mask out and put it on.”

Kaiser said the wastewater testing may actually be a better indicator of virus proliferation in the community because home tests are usually done in private and results are not made public or shared with public health departments.

The number of COVID-19 cases reported by the county last Wednesday actually fell, showing figures at odds with the results from the wastewater specimens, the Union-Tribune reported.

“BA.5 is certainly capable of killing,” Kaiser told the newspaper. “We’ve had at least 33 San Diegans die of COVID in June which is when BA.5 started to become more dominant, and I would point out, those are (caused by) COVID, not (those who died having tested positive) with it.”