New sewage data shows falling rates of COVID-19

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Encouraging new data was released Monday by the Maine CDC as the agency released its first batch of results from a new sewage testing effort for COVID-19. Compared to peak levels detected in January, some communities are now experiencing steep declines. “We’ve gone from very low levels to the highest we’ve seen,” said Scott Firmin, director of Portland Sanitation Services. Firmin says that after a post-holiday spike in January, the concentration of COVID-19 detected in the city’s sewage is “dropping very dramatically.” Portland’s efforts to measure COVID-19 rates through sewage began in the summer of 2020. The latest batch of service area data was released this week with results from about a dozen other municipalities. It shows steep declines in systems such as Portland’s East End and in the Westbrook-Gorham regional service area. “We have everyone contributing whether they have symptomatic COVID or are asymptomatic,” said Gib Parrish of the Yarmouth Community Coronavirus Task Force. Parrish says he is happy to see the value given sewage testing. The epidemiologist led efforts to measure levels locally in the early stages of the pandemic. “Generally our trend has been down since the first of the year, which we consider a very good sign,” Parrish said. Health officials warn against reading too much into early results. With data now to be released by the Maine CDC weekly, the agency says it will provide another target for communities as the omicron variant which, as they say, “still fuels widespread community transmission.” Over the weekend, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah tweeted that the strength of sewage testing measures long-term trends. The early results, he says, are consistent with other declining metrics such as hospitalizations.

Encouraging new data was released Monday by the Maine CDC as the agency released its first batch of results from a new sewage testing effort for COVID-19.

Compared to peak levels detected in January, some communities are now experiencing steep declines.

“We’ve gone from very low levels to the highest we’ve seen,” said Scott Firmin, director of Portland Sanitation Services.

Firmin says that after a post-holiday spike in January, the concentration of COVID-19 detected in the city’s sewage is “going down very dramatically.”

Portland’s effort to measure COVID-19 rates through sewage began in the summer of 2020.

The latest batch of service area data was released this week along with results from about a dozen more municipalities.

It shows steep declines in systems such as Portland’s East End and in the Westbrook-Gorham regional service area.

“We have everyone contributing whether they have symptomatic COVID or are asymptomatic,” said Gib Parrish of the Yarmouth Community Coronavirus Task Force.

Parrish says he’s happy to see the value placed on wastewater testing.

The epidemiologist led efforts to measure levels locally in the early stages of the pandemic.

“Generally our trend has been down since the first of the year, which we consider a very good sign,” Parrish said.

Health officials warn against reading too much into early results.

With data now to be released by the Maine CDC weekly, the agency says it will provide another target for communities as the omicron variant which, as they put it, “fuels widespread community transmission.”

Over the weekend, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah tweeted that the strength of sewage testing measures long-term trends.

The early results, he says, are consistent with other declining metrics such as hospitalizations.

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