xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Maryland Gov. Hogan announces $1M in funding for wastewater COVID-19 testing for correctional facilities, public housing

Forget nasal swabs: Wastewater could be used to detect future coronavirus outbreaks.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, announced Thursday that $1 million in federal CARES Act funding would go toward a targeted wastewater testing program that could help detect a spate of COVID-19 cases in vulnerable populations, like public housing settings and correctional facilities.

Advertisement

Dr. Jinlene Chan, acting deputy secretary of public health services at the Maryland Department of Health, said the program could make an impact in low-income public housing for seniors. State figures show that 2,221 virus deaths have come from nursing homes, group homes and assisted living facilities, more than half of the state’s death toll.

The program works by detecting coronavirus in the wastewater itself, she said.

Advertisement

“That testing then allows us to potentially predict or then go back and do more specific testing of the people within the facility,” Chan said. “The funding that the governor has dedicated to this project will be very targeted.”

A portable water sampler rests in sewage for COVID-19 testing at Rollins College on Oct. 19. Sewage water can be used to detect the presence of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. At Rollins College, wastewater from residence halls is tested on a weekly basis.
A portable water sampler rests in sewage for COVID-19 testing at Rollins College on Oct. 19. Sewage water can be used to detect the presence of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. At Rollins College, wastewater from residence halls is tested on a weekly basis. (Gerald Leong/Orlando Sentinel)

A similar process has already been tested in a pilot program, according to a news release. During the pilot program, wastewater from five different places statewide was tested for the virus, which gave “advanced notice of an outbreak before they were seen through traditional testing,” the release said.

The testing can even discern asymptomatic virus carriers, according to the release.

“Our COVID-19 Sewer Sentinel Initiative can provide early detection, which can save lives,” said Ben Grumbles, Maryland’s Environment Secretary, in the release. "Wastewater can tell a lot about the health and well being of communities and watersheds.”

On Thursday, Hogan announced the program, which was part of a total of $70 million in CARES Act funding, some of which is helping to add to supplies of personal protective equipment and aid in a vaccination program. Amid rising virus cases, he warned that the next few months could be the most difficult yet.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement