New Castle County, Delaware (CBS) — A year ago, at the height of the pandemic, New Castle County tried something else. Officials there have begun testing COVID-19 wastewater.
Innovative approaches to combating viruses have been successful and have received national attention.
When talking to New Castle County officials last April, they have just begun working with startup BioBot Analyitcs to track and study traces of COVID-19 in wastewater.
The idea is that studying sewage is a more accurate indicator of community infection rates, as it is not limited solely to those with COVID-9 symptoms being tested.
“I wasn’t too sure it would actually work,” said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer.
But I did. In a big sense.
A year later, the county test is being conducted by researchers at the University of Delaware’s Center for Environmental and Wastewater Epidemiology. About three months ago, sewerage science was used on campus when testing of dormitory waste began.
“They can detect very quickly [and say]”Oh, wait for the COVID-19 level to skyrocket in this dormitory. You don’t have to shut down the entire campus,” Meyer added.
The sewers of three high schools in New Castle County have also been tested with the aim of expanding throughout the district.
Immunization efforts are even supported by data.
“If you see a surge in a particular area, you can concentrate the vaccine in that area,” Meyer said, adding that the information goes beyond the location of the virus.
By running samples through advanced genomic mechanisms, researchers can detect which mutants of the virus are present in the community, Meyer said.
Following the initiative of New Castle County, the CDC announced that it is developing a national wastewater monitoring system. This is a move that Meyer feels important.
“The next time COVID, Ebola, SARS, MRSA are somewhere in the world, we need to activate this early warning system and implement it so that all sewerage systems in the country can start testing daily or weekly. I think there is, “Meyer said.
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