Elevated COVID-19 Levels Detected in WCH Wastewater

Fayette County Public Health will be closed to the public on Monday, November 16 to allow staff time to work on COVID-19 case investigations and contact tracing. 154 new cases of COVID-19 with a symptom onset from November 1 to 15 have been reported in Fayette County. Because of the delay between initial contact with a physician or healthcare provider, testing, and diagnosis, this is preliminary data and is expected by public health officials to increase as the health department continues to receive lab results. Due to the increased demand on staff time and resources for COVID-19 response, the health department will also be closed to the public November 23-25. November 26 and 27 are scheduled closures for the Thanksgiving holiday.

In a new effort to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, a network across Ohio is studying samples of wastewater to look for the presence of fragments from the virus that causes the disease. An upward trend of viral gene copies has been detected in samples collected from the Washington Court House Wastewater Treatment plant.

This trend is an early indicator that cases of COVID-19 in the community may be increasing. Residents should be on alert and remain vigilant in their efforts to social distance, wear face coverings, and adhere to prevention efforts such as frequent hand-washing.

This emerging information is being used by Fayette County Public Health in conjunction with our community case numbers and other COVID-19-related data to further inform decisions as we respond to the pandemic. At this time, Fayette County Public Health is alerting healthcare providers, nursing homes, and other shared-living facilities to be prepared for a potential increase in cases.

The increase of COVID-19 cases in communities is typically tracked by testing people with symptoms, an indicator that lags behind the actual spread of the disease. However, research has shown that non- infectious RNA (ribonucleic acid) from the virus that causes COVID-19 can be detected in wastewater as many as three to seven days before those infections lead to increases in case counts or hospitalizations. This means that monitoring raw wastewater in sewage collection systems can provide an early warning of disease increase in a community.

When interpreting this specific viral data in wastewater, it is only appropriate to monitor and observe the trends of viral gene copies detected in a community over time, not individual readings themselves. Levels in Washington Court House have increased 79% from 140,000 MGC/day on October 28 to 250,000 MGC/day on November 4 (MGC/day is measured by the N2 [virus gene] Average per sample times Flow rate, divided by million and rounded to first two significant digits).

The Ohio Coronavirus Wastewater Monitoring Network is a collaboration between the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OhioEPA),the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S.EPA),the Ohio Water Resources Center (OhioWRC) at TheOhio State University, and other participating universities, including The University ofToledo,Kent State University, and The University ofAkron.

For additional local data and details on the network and its monitoring methods, visithttps://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/dashboards/wastewater/wastewater

For answers to frequently asked questions about the Ohio Coronavirus Wastewater Monitoring Network, visithttps://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/docs/Wastewater-Toolkit-FAQ.pdf

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