Solving COVID: September 16, 2020

Universities have had great success monitoring for COVID-19 flare-ups by testing wastewater, or “all the dirty stuff from the toilets, showers, sinks, washing machines, dishwashers, you name it,” Politico reports. And now “the CDC and HHS are working on a national wastewater surveillance system and data portal” for willing states and local governments. People shed the coronavirus in their waste days before they show signs of illness, so finding COVID-19 in wastewater can give authorities “seven precious days for intervention,” said Ian Pepper at the University of Arizona. Testing every U.S. ZIP code twice a week would cost about $3 billion a year, estimates David Larsen, an epidemiologist and public health expert at Syracuse University. “It’s really not much. The cost per person monitored is like $10, if that, a year.” The payoff, he said, is it “would be huge to get us back to work” before a vaccine becomes widely available. [Politico, CDC]

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