Sep 30, 2022 - News

D.C.'s COVID wastewater data hints towards fall uptick

A man sprays water into a pool while standing over a bridge. The pool is filled with wastewater.

The Blue Plains wastewater plant. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The amount of COVID-19 in D.C.’s wastewater has been lower than the national average since the end of July, although recent data shows a slight uptick.

  • Still, this analysis of literal feces shows that COVID cases have dropped significantly since the start of the year and have remained low.

Why it matters: Officials nationwide are using wastewater to monitor levels of the virus and warn of potential spikes in cases days before individual testing can.

  • Wastewater is also crucial in tracking cases at a time when COVID testing is on the decline and fewer individuals are reporting cases.

State of play: D.C. has seen continued delays to its own wastewater tracking program.

The data finally published Friday by the CDC’s wastewater surveillance contractor Biobot measures wastewater samples taken between May 25 and Sept. 21 from the Blue Plains Wastewater Plant — which collects wastewater from D.C., and Montgomery, Prince George’s, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties.

The bottom line: For the most part, wastewater data from the D.C. region has followed national trends during the last four months, seeing a staggered decline in cases since a spike in mid-July.

  • Yes, but: While the national average since early September has seen continued decline, D.C.’s cases have seen a slight uptick, still remaining low overall but giving some insight into what the fall might have in store for us.

What’s next: DC Health, which is also taking part in the CDC’s wastewater surveillance program, tells Axios it has now submitted to the CDC two months' worth of wastewater data from 16 additional sites, including sewer sheds in each ward and several schools.

Be smart: Despite low case counts, it's still as good a time as ever to get your bivalent booster.


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