NEW HAVEN, CT – Wastewater surveillance is proving to be the most accurate and economical way to gauge COVID-19 activity in communities across the country, David Freedman, who chairs Yale University’s Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at Clemson University, told Kaiser Health News. But government funding hasn’t followed.
Jordan Peccia, who runs Yalecovidwastewater.com, said their government funding ran out in 2021, but they received private funding to continue the project and expand it.
Samples are collected every day at New Haven’s WasteWater Treatment Facility, which serves 200,000 people in the cities of New Haven, Hamden, East Haven, and part of Woodbridge.
Some Connecticut cities and towns have been sharing their wastewater information with the CDC, including New London, Fairfield, and Windham.
According to the New Haven site, there are about 15,000 COVID copies per milliliter in New Haven’s water system, which is well below the January peak.
“We are 10 to 15 times less than the peak last January,” Peccia said.
He said there’s not a complete absence of the virus, but it’s not as high as it was last summer. He said from mid-June until mid-August it’s been pretty steady.
“It hasn’t gone down to nothing,” Peccia said Monday.
He said that tracks with what they are seeing with hospitalizations too. There are currently 326 patients hospitalized with COVID and the positivity rate is 9.26%.
That’s a positive sign with school starting this week, however, Peccia said events have a tendency to change the trajectory of the virus.
This fall and winter the team will be tracking more than COVID.
Peccia said thanks to the private donor they’re building out the monitoring system to include other respiratory viruses like RSV and influenza.
Researchers have been using wastewater for years to test for viruses. The method was used in the 1940s to track polio outbreaks. Besides COVID-19, the technique is being used to track the spread of Monkeypox.
Peccia’s team started to monitor Monkeypox back at the end of June.
He said they are looking to take this technology as far as they can and are looking to improve the model.