Virginia Department of Health establishes sentinel monitoring network

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 7:18 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia Department of Health has established a network of testing sites across the state that will monitor wastewater for evidence of COVID-19 and give public health officials another tool to assess the spread of the virus.

And soon, more Virginians will have access to the information.

In June of 2020, the Western Virginia Water Authority was already collecting samples of wastewater for testing that would reveal fragments of COVID-19.

And a number of other utilities in Virginia were doing the same, as a way to take a snapshot of what was happening in their communities.

“We’re able to see kind of an early indicator, of the rise in cases or the decline and where some of these cases are occurring in certain geographic areas,” said water authority spokesperson Sarah Baumgardner.

Fast forward to August, when federal funding for the state’s new Sentinel Monitoring Network became available. By mid-September, the Virginia Department of Health had the network up and running with 25 monitoring sites across the Commonwealth.

Marcia Degen is Technical Services Manager for the Office of Environmental Health Services with the Virginia Department of Health.

“We’re targeting around the first of the year to be able to put this on a state dashboard on our website,” Degen said in an interview Monday afternoon, “so that folks will be able to look at a facility that is close to their neighborhood and get an idea on the trends that are occurring in the communities near them.”

The Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services in Richmond will do the testing, which will bring consistency to the way samples from around the state are processed.

Public health officials believe the new network will also help them look for the presence of COVID variants that continue to raise concerns around the globe.

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