There’s a new way for health officials to detect COVID-19 infections, and it’s starting in the homes of Puyallup residents, specifically in their bathrooms.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department recently announced its partnership with the state health department as well as local sewage treatment facilities to test raw sewage for COVID-19. . The state Department of Health is funding the program, TPCHD spokesman Kenny Via said by email.
This can help the health department identify when COVID-19 infections are rising or falling, according to a TPCHD announcement. Test sampling began this week at the Puyallup water pollution control plant.
“Puyallup is the first facility to join the program in Pierce County,” Via wrote. “We are working to add another facility soon.”
The state DOH will partner with the Puyallup plant as well as other local water treatment facilities to collect wastewater samples twice a week. The turnaround time is fast and the results will be entered into the CDC’s National Wastewater Monitoring System.
It takes two weeks of data before health officials can begin to see trends. The first results are expected in early June, which residents can follow on the CDC’s sewage data tracking page.
Via wrote that the program is funded through 2023 and the state DOH has requested funding to continue the program after that.
“Many of you have taken COVID-19 tests at home… But not everyone is reporting test results. This leads to an undercount of cases,” TPCHD said. COVID Project Manager Jennifer Thompson wrote in the ad.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, sewage testing can help warn and allow health officials to prepare for surges, Thompson wrote. Health officials may not know the “true size” of case increases until hospitals start showing they are struggling with patients.
Although wastewater testing provides another tool in the toolbox of health officials, there are limitations. The data collected does not specify race, ethnicity, age or socio-economic status. Weather can also dilute samples.
“Even with these limitations, the sewage testing data combined with other COVID-19 data gives us, local healthcare facilities and you valuable insights,” Thompson wrote.
Those who test positive for COVID-19 with home testing are advised to begin isolation, take care of themselves and notify close contacts at least two days before testing or when symptoms occur. appear.
They should then notify their healthcare provider and call the state COVID hotline at 800-525-0127. More information about TPCHD home testing is available online at bit.ly/3wOlZ2p.