COVID wastewater data now available online

Posted at 7:11 PM, Feb 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-04 21:12:11-05

GREAT FALLS — A database is available for you to track national COVID wastewater data.

Since September of 2020, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has been working with communities across the country to monitor wastewater.

If you’re infected, traces of COVID are released from your body when you go to the bathroom. Monitoring the amount of COVID in wastewater can help communities make decisions like where to have testing and vaccine sites.

The CDC website explains:

  • Wastewater surveillance captures presence of SARS-CoV-2 shed by people with and without symptoms. By measuring SARS-CoV-2 levels in untreated wastewater over time, public health officials can determine if infections are increasing or decreasing in a sewershed.
  • Wastewater surveillance can be an early indicator that the number of people with COVID-19 in a community is increasing or decreasing.
  • Unlike other types of COVID-19 surveillance, wastewater surveillance does not depend on people having access to healthcare, people seeking healthcare when sick, or availability of COVID-19 testing.
  • Wastewater surveillance can be implemented in many communities since nearly 80 percent of U.S. households are served by municipal wastewater collection systems.

As of Friday, according to CDC National Wastewater Surveillance System Team Lead Dr. Amy Kirby, there were more than 400 communities participating and about 200 more are expected to start participating in the next few weeks.

"Visitors to the site will be able to see changes in virus levels in wastewater over the previous 15 days for each participating community as well as the percentage of tests from the past 15 days that are positive,” Kirby explained.

When asked why the database took so long to create, Kirby said the CDC has been building the capacity to get the data in it.

“We think now is the point where there’s enough data that it is a good time to make it available to the public,” said Kirby.

As of February 4, 2022, no communities in Montana were participating, but Helena and East Helena do monitor wastewater.

According to the latest data from Lewis & Clark County Public Health, as of January 26, 2022, the amount of COVID detected in wastewater samples had risen significantly since lows in December.

The amounts, however, were still below the peak of August 2021 for Helena and the peak in October 2021 for East Helena.

Additionally, Carroll College has developed a system to help test wastewater in the Helena area.

Click here to visit the CDC database website.