St. Mary’s Testing Wastewater for COVID-19

The St. Mary’s County Health Department (SMCHD) is partnering with St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM), and the St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission to run a pilot project that will track COVID-19 through local wastewater.

With the number of individuals getting tested lower than experts would prefer, many have high hopes that monitoring COVID-19 in wastewater will help identify areas where the virus is spreading. This would help health officials predict where the next outbreak of the virus will occur before hospitals see an increase in patients, and allow for better resource allocation. St. Mary’s is leading the way in this effort by testing local wastewater through a partnership between health department epidemiologists and university faculty with samples provided by the St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission. The partnership will use the study results to create better protocols for testing going forward. Early results show the presence of COVID-19 in the local wastewater.

From the press release:

“We need to think about the long-term with COVID-19. We may be dealing with this virus for years,” said Dr. Meena Brewster, St. Mary’s County Health Officer. “This pilot study on virus in wastewater helps us plan for longer-term monitoring. In the future, when this pandemic is over, we may have to play whack-a-rona with this virus – pick up on early signs of it re-emerging and aggressively implement public health measures to suppress it before it becomes an epidemic.”

“The Metropolitan Commission is excited about the opportunity to help quantify the scale of this virus and potentially determine if there is a population link to a specific wastewater treatment plant,” said George Erichsen, MetCom Executive Director. “MetCom facilities process wastewater produced by local residences and businesses so we have a perfect opportunity to work with the College and to provide the Health Officer with background data that could be used in science–based recovery recommendations.”

“St. Mary’s College is happy to lend its expertise to this important local initiative that may prove beneficial for the citizens of the state beyond the county,” said Dr. Tuajuanda Jordan, St. Mary’s College President. “This collaborative partnership between St. Mary’s College, the St. Mary’s County Health Department and MetCom is supported by our local COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Group and is the first of its kind in Maryland.”

Useful Links:

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Tracking COVID-19 Through Wastewater?

Joint Press Release