County Plans to Test Wastewater for Traces of COVID-19 Soon

Montgomery County officials soon will test its wastewater for indications of COVID-19 as part of a six-month pilot program.

The county received a $200,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control to measure traces of the disease as another way to see if there is an uptick in cases.

The CDC recently recommended contact tracing efforts be minimized. The wastewater program is an attempt to continue keeping an eye on the county’s COVID numbers, according to Mary Anderson, spokesperson for the county Department of Health and Human Services.

“We aren’t doing as much contact tracing,” she said.

The pilot program should start up in June, once specific sites and contracts with the University of Maryland get finalized. The university, along with a lab it uses, will assist the county in analyzing the samples.

WSSC Water, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, will be involved in choosing the sites and providing samples.

According to a WSSC spokesperson, the commission previously provided wastewater samples for Howard University and continues to offer samples to the University of Maryland.

If the samples determine there is an increase in cases, “It gives us an opportunity for additional outreach,” Anderson said. “It’ll give us information that may give us advance notice that things are ramping up.”

The pilot program will be continued if it proves worthwhile, she said.

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