In March of this year, Missouri Governor Mike Parson declared that the state department of health and Senior Services would shift from treating COVID-19 from a pandemic to an endemic.
One of the changes that triggered was that the state Department of Health pivoted away from updating its COVID dashboard from daily to weekly. As cases of the B.A.5 variant have made millions of more people ill, the work at Missouri COVID-19 Sewershed Surveillance has continued to track the virus. Jeff Wenzel, Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology with DHSS, says this type of water waste testing didn’t exist before the pandemic.
“We didn’t know anything about Sewershed testing, really. We were aware that they were some other locations mostly overseas that were testing for things like drugs.”
The project started with four wastewater plants and has grown to 100. The most current testing shows that four of the 17 locations in southwest Missouri show a 40 percent increase in COVID-19 viral load in the past week.