The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is providing resources to eight states to help build out a public health tool for COVID-19 surveillance that was recommended by E&C Republicans in their Second Wave Preparedness Project. Wastewater surveillance has been found to be an effective tool for monitoring COVID-19 infections, and the CDC is providing $2.5 million to help create a National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS). In June, E&C Republicans identified this as a potential tool to “contribute to a more robust surveillance system” in the first pillar of the Second Wave Preparedness Project.
Using this type of surveillance tool is not new. This has been used in the past for polio and opioid abuse detection. In fact, some universities and colleges are already using this tool to help stop COVID-19 outbreaks before they occur. The University of Arizona recently found two asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 in a campus dorm using wastewater surveillance. The virus was found in wastewater from the dorm, which led to testing at the dorm to determine who had COVID-19. The cases were then identified and isolated. It’s clear wastewater surveillance can be a useful tool during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the CDC notes, wastewater surveillance is intended to complement – not replace – other systems for COVID-19 surveillance.
E&C Republican leaders recently sent a letter to CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to learn about their wastewater surveillance efforts noting how this can help detect asymptotic cases, “When considering the rate of individuals who can contract COVID-19 and be asymptomatic, and therefore never develop symptoms, this type of system can help detect when there is transmission of the virus within a community that might otherwise go undetected.”
Wastewater surveillance is one of more than 100 recommendations E&C Republicans developed and released through the Second Wave Preparedness Project. As Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY) wrote at the time the first report was released, the goal of this project is to “…release a series of recommendations that, if implemented, could save time, resources, and most importantly, lives.” E&C Republicans will continue their work to conduct oversight of and assist with the ongoing important work being done by our nation’s public health officials.