Wastewater Samples Reveal Record Levels of COVID-19 Across U.S.

"Wastewater is going to be a leading indicator for what's going on in a given community and what's to come," said a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

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With at-home Covid-19 tests in high demand and their efficacy in question, health departments from California to Massachusetts are turning to sewage samples to get a better idea of how much the coronavirus is spreading through communities and what might be in store for health care systems.

Experts say wastewater holds the key to better understanding the public health of cities and neighborhoods, especially in underserved areas that do not have equal access to care.

Monitoring sewage can also measure other public health concerns, such as obesity, opioids and even polio, said Sheree Pagsuyoin, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The pandemic has ushered in a new era of wastewater analysis, once a maligned discipline, to inform public health policy.

Recent wastewater analysis from a variety of sources across the country indicates an unprecedented surge in infections at a time when millions of people are forced to reconsider travel and holiday plans.

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