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New York State partners with Arcadis to pilot early detection of COVID-19 in wastewater

New York State partners with Arcadis to pilot early detection of COVID-19 in wastewater

Game-changing approach will help inform decision-making, protect public health in upstate communities

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo.  (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The New York State Department of Health and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have partnered with Arcadis for a pilot project to identify and track SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in municipal wastewater collection systems in Onondaga County, Albany, Newburgh and Buffalo.

Arcadis will identify and monitor the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in wastewater, alerting the state and participating cities to prepare for the virus’ potential spread and to inform critical reopening decisions. The project is a collaborative effort with Syracuse University, Quadrant Biosciences, SUNY ESF and Upstate Medical University.

SARS-CoV-2 is spread by symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers. Monitoring the wastewater collection system can help a community understand where the virus is present at a low per-capita cost, even in the absence of physical symptoms or delays in testing. Early detection of transmission allows officials to take precautionary safety measures that can prevent future spread while maintaining a layer of anonymity for residents. When transmission decreases, monitoring wastewater confirms the decline and eases anxiety.

“The power of this partnership is in the unique blend of engineering and epidemiology coming together to safeguard public health through rapid detection,” said Alex Rothchild, Arcadis’ CEO in North America. “As communities move to reopen safely, this collaborative effort will be instrumental in helping the state and local communities make informed decisions to protect residents’ physical and economic wellbeing.”

To maximize results for the state, team members will each lean heavily on their respective strengths. Arcadis’ wastewater engineers and scientists will use knowledge of collection systems to identify strategic sampling locations and use best-in-class techniques for safe sample collection. Samples will be analyzed by Quadrant Biosciences, using the fastest, most affordable technology available. The team will use a new data modelling platform to understand and report on the virus’ prevalence.

“Tracking the coronavirus in wastewater provides a cost-effective method of understanding community-level transmission dynamics,” said Syracuse University epidemiologist Dr. David Larsen, who leads the SARS2-EWSP team that developed the platform. “We now need to coordinate and scale this type of monitoring into a centralized and statewide platform to better inform responses to the coronavirus pandemic.”

“This can be a real game-changer in the detection and monitoring of COVID-19,” said Quadrant Biosciences CEO Richard Uhlig. “Information from this testing will allow municipalities to estimate COVID-19 transmission in real time, provide instant feedback on social distancing and reopening phases, help predict hospitalizations and provide confidence for locations with zero transmission to resume normal activity.”

The project begins in August and is valued at $500,000. The team has been performing similar work throughout upstate New York since May.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the project as one of a series of new initiatives related to COVID-19 testing.

“As New Yorkers remain vigilant in stopping the spread and our communities cautiously reopen, we continue to aggressively focus on testing in order to detect and control any new coronavirus outbreaks,” Governor Cuomo said.