DHSS Wastewater program developed during COVID has a bright future

Photo by Hafidz Alifuddin on Pexels.com

According to the latest data from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, roughly two-thirds of the state is considered to have high COVID-19 community transmission levels.

In March, Governor Mike Parson ordered DHSS to halt the daily updating of its COVID-19 dashboard that had tracked the pandemic from the early months of 2020.

One way the department has continued to monitor the virus flow throughout Missouri is the development of the COVID-19 waster waste surveillance project. Jeff Wenzel with DHSS says there were many unknowns before launching the new statewide program.

“Everything has been a surprise, really. We went into it as a pilot project, not even knowing if we would detect a signal. We detected a signal and about a year into the project when we started seeing or receiving information about variants coming about.”

About 100 wastewater facilities voluntarily participate in the program, collecting samples and sending them to the University of Missouri for testing. Four of the 17 seventeen plants in southwest Missouri show a 40 percent increase in viral load over the past week.

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