COVID-19 wastewater monitoring program begins in Maine

AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) – The program to monitor COVID 19 levels in communities by testing sewage is now operational and expanding.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah reports that sampling has already begun in Rockland and Boothbay.

Bethel, Bath, Wilton, Yarmouth and Guilford-Sangerville will start in the coming days, with the first figures being reported as early as next week.

This program is a partnership with the US CDC.

Shah says for this to be effective, it takes time and data to form a baseline.

“So the first few weeks of sewage monitoring screening data will be used to establish a baseline. We will make this public, but after establishing a baseline, as it may be different in one community versus another. The thing to look for is then is the trend up is the trend down? The second thing to look for is really big concentrated spikes,” Shah said.

In addition to the US CDC test sites, the Maine CDC is working with 16 additional municipalities to provide a broader view of what is happening.

BlueHill, Belfast and Augusta are among them.

The full version is below:

Maine DHHS Announces Municipalities Participating in Statewide COVID-19 Wastewater Screening

Three new patient testing sites open in Windham, Biddeford and Auburn

AUGUSTA– The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) today announced more than a dozen sites statewide that will monitor wastewater for the virus that causes COVID-19, improving capacity of Maine to track the spread of the virus and adapt the state’s public health response to the surge of Omicron.

Two separate but complementary screening projects are being launched in Maine. Seven sites in Maine participate in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) program that tests wastewater samples twice a week at up to 500 sites across the country. Sampling has already begun in Rockland and Boothbay, with the following five sites joining in the coming days: Bethel, Wilton, Bath, Yarmouth and Guilford-Sangerville.

The first phase of the three-month program will focus on trends in the presence and concentration of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in wastewater. The second phase, lasting 9 months, will add genomic sequencing to help identify new variants. Data from the program will be publicly available at the county level in the coming days on the US CDC COVID Data Tracker website.

In addition to the US CDC’s screening project, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) has launched its own project at up to 16 municipal wastewater treatment plants across the state. Maine CDC is partnering with Biobot Analytics, Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to collect and test samples twice a week until at least June 2022. Eight sites are currently receiving testing supplies and training: Blue Hill, Belfast, Greater Augusta Utility District, Calais, Brunswick Sewer District, Près Isle Water District and Portland Water District (East End and Westbrook). Other sites will join the project in the coming week.

As data becomes available, expected in the coming weeks, the Maine CDC will update and post data from this wastewater testing program on its website. This data will also be available in a different format on the US CDC website mentioned above.

The US CDC and Maine CDC wastewater testing programs will complement Maine’s existing COVID-19 testing systems, including clinical testing and health care system monitoring.

“Sewage screening has become an important tool to help Maine gauge the prevalence of the virus and track its trends at a time when public health experts say the number of new cases is becoming a less valuable metric as a result. of Omicron and grew at home trial,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I welcome the opportunity to partner with municipalities to provide this expanded public health service, including detection of potentially new variants, which will help keep Maine residents informed, safer and healthier. “

“Tracking community-level changes in the prevalence of COVID-19 helps understand trends and target Maine’s response to the pandemic, especially as the number of new cases becomes less significant during the Omicron surge. “, said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambew and Maine CDC Director Nirav D. Shah. “We welcome the expansion of sewage screening as well as new testing sites for individuals, which will help keep Maineans and their communities safe and healthy.”

“We are thrilled to partner with the Maine CDC on this critical public health project,” said Newsha Ghaeli, President and Co-Founder of Biobot Analytics. “The State of Maine is at the forefront of public health innovation and has clearly recognized the value of wastewater monitoring as a tool to better track and contain the spread of SARS-CoV. -2 and its variants.

“The Maine Water Environment Association fully supports the SARS-CoV-2 wastewater monitoring project,” said David Beauchamp, president of the Maine Water Environment Association (MeWEA). “The information gained from comprehensive and early sewage testing has proven invaluable. Two MeWEA members, the Greater Augusta Utility District and the Portland Water District, have been instrumental in helping us understand the role that sewage testing for the different variants can have in determining the severity of a outbreak before it was even known to health officials or the public. . This type of testing helps health officials plan and allocate much-needed resources to an area that needs them the most. We believe that testing wastewater will have an impact on how best to manage our resources.

“We are delighted that sanitation utilities can continue to serve their communities and help in the fight against COVID-19,” said Kirsten Hebert, executive director of the Maine Rural Water Association. “Since day one of the pandemic, utility workers have been on the front lines of protecting the health and environment of Mainers, often with little recognition. This project shines a light on the difficult and incredibly important work that has never stopped during this pandemic.

Sewage screening can be an early indicator of the burden of COVID-19, helping public health officials better understand the extent of infections within communities where sewage screening occurs. The virus can be shed in the stool of individuals with symptomatic or asymptomatic infection, many of whom may not get tested.

Also today, DHHS announced three new options for COVID-19 testing in Maine.

  • On Tuesday, a PCR testing site opened at Windham Shopping Center. Testing is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Appointments are mandatory. This site is supported by a team from the federal program to increase community access to testing in partnership with the Maine CDC, the Windham Fire Department and Northern Light Health Mercy.
  • From Thursday 27 January, saliva-based PCR tests will be available at Biddeford Shopping Center, Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On appointment. The site is a collaboration between Maine CDC, York County Emergency Management Agency, Biddeford Emergency Management Agency, and ShieldT3 Health.
  • Starting Monday, January 31, rapid antigen tests will be available at YMCAs in Auburn, Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visits without an appointment are welcome. The testing site is a collaboration between New Mainers Public Health Initiative, AK Health and Social Services, Multicultural Community and Family Support Services, Maine Community Integration, Gateway Community Services Maine, and Maine Immigrant Refugee Services. Curative, which already operates multiple testing sites in Maine, will begin operating the site in mid-February and plans to add PCR testing. .

Additionally, the Augusta Armory test site now accepts walk-ins. Appointments are still recommended but are no longer mandatory.

Maine DHHS and Maine CDC continue to add COVID-19 testing options and, under the leadership of Governor Mills, are preparing to announce a plan this week to distribute testing directly to Maine residents.

More information on COVID-19 testing sites, as well as general guidance on home testing options, is available at maine.gov/covid19/testing.

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