U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is calling on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and implement a COVID-19 wastewater surveillance program.
Testing wastewater has been proven as a successful method to detect viruses and diseases. Communities in California, Massachusetts, and Arizona have already started exploring this approach in partnership with universities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, wastewater surveillance has already been implemented in several other countries, Feinstein said, including Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands.
“Effective wastewater surveillance holds the potential to detect an outbreak in a community up to a week before people start showing up in the hospital,” Feinstein wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and EPA Secretary Andrew Wheeler. “This advanced warning would allow all levels of government to preposition medical supplies, shore up hospitals in the affected community, and begin locking down the area. Given surging caseloads in many states, it is clear that the United States needs to find innovative ways to get ahead of the curve, and I urge you to prioritize funding to implement nationwide wastewater surveillance efforts related to COVID-19.”