A change is brewing in the public health world about wastewater. And there’s a lot of misinformation circulating. Here’s what’s going on. First, setting the playing field. It’s not an understatement to say that wastewater surveillance has transformed public health. (See my
I knew this was coming, but thanks for the additional information. In a perfect world, I’d like to see several systems collecting non-overlapping data, allowing comparison and correlation.
Does this mean that Google can now target Paxlovid online ads by geography with even more precision?
Maybe they should be paying the CDC and not the other way around!
I work at a POTW sending in samples. I only have direct experience with Verily; they send a small stipend per sample in addition to paying for shipping. That allows us to donate the staff time to collect samples. It’s been working well and the WW SCAN website has some helpful data visualization tools.
This is a great post and very informative. Seems sometimes wastewater data is all we have left. I agree the CDC site is a bit tricky, but the link you provide shows a page where users only have to scroll down to find the place to choose their state and county. In my part of NY state the numbers seems to show a rapid and huge spike coinciding with school and college starting up again in person...
Hugely timely and welcome! I do have two questions for you, Dr. Jetelina: it appears that no wastewater samples are being collected in all of NYC. As a result, neither biobot nor CDC (nor NYS or NYC) are displaying any wastewater for NYC. Two questions: Do we know why that is, and when we can expect data to start being collected again? Also, while I have been using Nassau County as a proxy (which is what biobot has been doing all along), I am concerned that it is not altogether reliable as an indicator for NYC, for reasons such as higher density in NYC, generally, and much higher use of public transportation, and that any discrepancies will be exacerbated during the holiday season. As an older person, I had hoped to use wastewater data to help me assess how to handle unmasked holiday gatherings. Any insights you have on this will be much appreciated.
Dr. Jetelina, I've been following you since COVID began; thank you for another important post! I would point out, though, that when you say "It’s not an understatement to say that wastewater surveillance has transformed public health", you really mean it's not an OVERSTATEMENT: its importance can't be stressed too much. Thank you!
An assessment of target virion level requires a denominator, such as volume of wastewater, mass of solids, or count of a more ubiquitous and stable virus that itself correlates well with catchment population/volume. Dr Jetelina, would you mind describing how different wastewater labs differ on their denominators, and the merits of each?
Dr. Jetelina, I respectfully and energetically disagree with your assessment of the relative merits of Biobot and Verily to serve as the CDC’s data source. Verily’s data presentation (data.wastewaterscan.org) is lightyears more useful, up-to-date, fine-grained, and intelligently presented than Biobot’s. I am an ordinary citizen who closely tracks these results every week, in order to advise choral organizations about Covid safety policies (especially antigen testing and masking) according to the current prevalence of disease in the community. Choirs making use of such help have managed to escape the major outbreaks that threatened performances in other organizations, while optimizing their opportunities to safely sing unmasked. Have a look at Verily’s tools and graphic presentation: crystal clear, offering county-specific data that is 48-hours fresh. I do happen to live in the SF Bay Area, which Verily covers comprehensively, but I’ve had occasion to turn to Biobot for information in geographic areas that Verily doesn’t serve: the contrast is dramatic. For one, Biobot’s graphs are presented on a such a tiny scale that it’s very difficult to decipher even month-to-month trends, much less week-to-week. On a national level, the CDC’s Biobot-based wastewater graphics are completely unintelligible. From a more technical perspective, Verily’s and Biobot’s testing protocols differ significantly. It’s not at all clear that Biobot has made the better choices.
Just dropping in to mention that there's nothing nefarious or untoward about the government switching contractors. We WANT competitive bidding, the same way we want free and fair elections and meritocratic civil service. Seeing it happen in real time can be a little jarring and stressful, but on the whole, it's a good thing.
How good are covid tests now anyway? Again and again people say they are sick and don't have covid and then someone in the house tests positive while the others stay negative.
It seems unlikely to me that house after house has ill people with different illnesses.
With new strains, or infections after vaccination, or second or third infections, are people testing negative with OTC tests who have covid? Are tests expiring?
I wish it was easier to find information in those links. :(
I'm glad that the difference inaccuracy is minimal. I'm also glad that the very American habit of unfettered, even rough, competition is at work in this.
That said, I'm awed by the short, skinny, bespactacled old man who will stand in line at a hamburger stand in Seattle, is still quietly advancing science in so very many fields. There is hope for my grandkids' world.