U.S. Reps. TJ Cox (D-CA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) are seeking information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a nationwide COVID-19 wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) surveillance program.
As coronavirus cases are rising across the United States, WBE is an under-utilized solution for surveillance testing that can help identify and track outbreaks of COVID-19 by collecting and testing wastewater samples from sewers.
“Getting past the Covid-19 pandemic should be our number one priority, and wastewater-based epidemiology is a cost-efficient way to help us do that. I reached out to the CDC to ask what they needed from Congress to get this form of testing implemented nationwide, but their response left much to be desired. So today, I am following up on my original letter to urge the CDC to let us know as soon as possible how Congress can help them get a wastewater surveillance system up and running to help us beat the pandemic,” Cox said. “I will continue to use my position in Congress to apply pressure on the CDC because they have the power to support states and localities in tracking this deadly disease.”
In the letter to Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, the lawmakers said there is a need for a professional budget estimate of necessary funding for a WBE strategy. Also, they suggest the launch of pilot programs in rural, minority, and underserved areas of the country as well as funding for local entities and small businesses to conduct wastewater testing. It was a follow up to a letter sent on Sept. 16 that had not been answered.
“Wastewater surveillance has the ability to stop the spread of the coronavirus in communities across the country and save countless lives. This tool has already been used to predict the number of coronavirus cases and has accurately predicted a surge in hospitalizations 3 to 5 days out. In Connecticut, Yale University in my hometown of New Haven and at the University of Connecticut, scientists are leading the way in wastewater surveillance and proving that this technology should be implemented nationwide. Without information on the federal support needed to scale-up wastewater-based epidemiology, CDC is delaying the expansion of a critical tool that could help our country get a handle on the pandemic,” DeLauro said.
The lawmakers asked for responses by Nov. 13 to questions they initially sent in the Sept. 16 letter, including what the CDC’s professional judgment budget estimate is for the necessary funding to successfully carry out this effort.