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Kansas expands wastewater surveillance for early COVID-19 detection

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Posted at 4:53 PM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 17:53:07-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is expanding its wastewater surveillance for evidence of COVID-19 throughout the state, Secretary Dr. Lee Norman said Wednesday.

Norman said the process will “assist in identifying and containing COVID-19 outbreaks.”

The surveillance will be split in a two-pronged approach.

One part of the testing will happen in the Kansas City metro area of Johnson and Wyandotte counties, where the state will collect samples from multiple wastewater treatment plants weekly.

Kansas’ 95 rural counties will be grouped together for testing, Norman said.

Norman said with the surveillance, the department will have a better idea of where and when to mobilize its resources.

The new procedure gives officials as much as seven-day head start on outbreaks, since the virus often appears in wastewater before it manifests in the community from which the water came.

Though the surveillance will help with early detection, it does have limitations.

“While we realize it isn’t a silver bullet for COVID-19, it does give us an additional piece of data we can use to fight COVID-19,” Norman said.

The state has contracted with the University of Kansas, whose engineering college helped pilot the wastewater program in the state, to aid the process using private, state and federal funding.