Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department announcement.
Many of you asked, and now we have an answer: Wastewater testing for COVID-19 is coming to Pierce County. This new tool can warn us of COVID-19 spread in our community.
We’ve been working with Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and local wastewater facilities to start local testing. Sampling started at Puyallup Water Pollution Control Plant this week. We’re working to add another facility soon.
Why test wastewater?
Testing for COVID-19 in untreated wastewater may help us identify when infections increase or decrease.
Many of you have taken COVID-19 tests at home. The tests are fast, accurate and convenient. They help you make important decisions about you and your family’s health. But not everyone reports test results. This leads to an undercount of cases.
We know our case rate is rising. But by how much? Without accurate case reporting, we might not know the true size of case surges until hospitals are struggling with a wave of new COVID-19 patients.
Wastewater testing can help warn us and allow us and healthcare facilities to better prepare for those surges.
One more tool.
Wastewater testing helps us better understand disease level in our community. But it has limitations:
- Large scale sampling doesn’t give data at the city and neighborhood level.
- We don’t get information on race, ethnicity, age or socioeconomic variability.
- Weather conditions can dilute samples.
- People shed different levels of virus naturally and over the course of the disease.
Our goal is to provide you with information to keep you and your family as safe as possible. Even with these limitations, data from wastewater testing combined with other COVID-19 data give us, local healthcare facilities and you valuable information.
DOH partners with local water treatment facilities who collect samples 2 times a week and send them to DOH for testing. Turnaround time is fast and results feed to the CDC’s National Wastewater Surveillance System.
It takes 2 weeks of data to start seeing trends. We should see our first results in early June. You’ll be able to track the data on the CDC’s wastewater data tracker page.
We’ll keep you informed of testing progress and help interpret results and what they mean for Pierce County.
Reporting test data.
You can help keep COVID-19 data more accurate. If you or someone in your family tests positive with an at-home test, make sure you:
- Start isolation immediately.
- Notify close contacts from at least 2 days before test or symptom onset.
- Notify your healthcare provider and call the Washington State COVID Hotline at (800) 525-0127.
- Care for yourself at home so long as your symptoms are mild to moderate.
Find more info on at-home testing on our flyer.
Continue healthy practices.
As we learn to live with COVID-19, we must continue to follow the best public health practices:
- Get vaccinated and boosted.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Get tested if you have symptoms or have been exposed.
- Wash your hands regularly.
- Consider wearing a mask in crowded public spaces.
- Increase indoor air ventilation and filtration.
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