Northland Wastewater Being Tested for Traces of COVID-19

15 wastewater sites from Duluth to International Falls are allowing the University of Minnesota Medical School in Duluth to test their wastewater for genetic material connected to COVID-19.

DULUTH, Minn. – The University of Minnesota Medical School in Duluth has started testing wastewater for coronavirus to better understand the pandemic.

15 wastewater sites from Duluth to International Falls are allowing the University of Minnesota Medical School in Duluth to test their wastewater for genetic material connected to COVID-19.

Scientists say it’s an unbiased 10,000-foot view of the outbreak.

People who are infected with COVID-19 shed the virus in their fecal matter days before symptoms are known or before they may get tested on their own.

This then allows scientists at the medical school to see in which communities the virus is spiking.

“Instead of looking at specific individuals we are more concerned about communities as a whole and then hopefully based on knowing whether it’s trending up or trending now we will be able to help the public officials redirect resources,” said Glenn Simmons Jr. an assistant professor of immunology at the University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth.

Simmons Jr. says people infected with COVID-19 shed the virus before, during, and for weeks after being sick and that studying wastewater is very helpful to know when the virus is completely out of a community.

Meanwhile, the team behind the study stresses our drinking water is clean and safe to drink with no risk of COVID-19.

“The stuff that they do to the water would kill any virus that I know of so what we’re looking at is what’s coming in we’re curious what happens in between an individual’s home and when it arrives at a facility and that’s where we collect it,” said Simmons Jr.

The scientists will continue monitoring the wastewater samples throughout the fall.

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