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State College COVID-19 wastewater data is now available on CDC website

A technician sitting above a manhole next to a red cone installs a flow meter into Penn State's sewage network.
Michael Shreve
Penn State
In this Penn State photo, a technician installs a flow meter into the university's sewage network.

Data from a Penn State research program monitoring changes in the amount of COVID-19 strains detectable in wastewater is now available to access online.

Researchers at Penn State have been analyzing COVID levels in wastewater on and near the University Park campus since the summer of 2020. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will now start publishing this data weekly as part of its National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS).

Andrew Read is the director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. He said Penn State is providing this data to help the CDC better understand the current status of COVID-19.

“The CDC is using the wastewater to get a picture of, nationwide, where the virus is rising and falling. So they’re interested in getting as much surveillance as they can across the country,” Read said.

He said that this way of measuring the virus is especially useful now that people are taking more at-home tests or have built up immunity with vaccines.

“The wastewater is a way of seeing what’s going on independent of any testing behavior," Read said. "It is another level of data that can be combined with other types of data to get a better picture of what’s going on.”

The Penn State research team provides weekly data to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, which passes it along to the CDC. Over time, the team will work on uploading their entire two-year data set into the CDC’s Surveillance System.

Casey Zanowic is a WPSU radio news intern for fall 2022.
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