Anne Arundel Co. wastewater testing reveals rise in COVID cases

A wastewater monitoring program in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, has revealed that COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the county.

The new data was released just as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moved COVID-19 community levels to medium in the county. As case numbers go up in the region, the CDC has also elevated the community levels to medium in D.C., Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County and Alexandria.

Dr. Tonii Gedin, Anne Arundel County’s deputy health officer, said there have been sustained increases of COVID-19 showing up in samples from four county wastewater treatment plants over the past few weeks. The plants that saw the increase include ones at Cox Creek, Patuxent, Broadneck and Broadwater.

“What we saw this time was a sustained increase over multiple collection points,” Gedin said.

Gedin also said the health department is seeing a correlation between increasing COVID-19 detections and low booster rates at the Cox Creek wastewater treatment plant. Gedin added that it’s possible the Cox Creek area, which is near Riviera Beach, is seeing the increase due to low booster uptake.

The health department said the wastewater testing has proven to be an accurate indicator of rising and falling COVID-19 community transmission levels. Officials are can detect COVID-19 in sewage because people sick with the virus shed it in their feces.

“We use this as an early detection tool to try to make sure we’re on top of things,” Gedin said.

The department urges the public to wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask in indoor public settings, get tested before gathering with family and friends and stay up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations, which the CDC now defines as having received the primary series plus the updated omicron booster.

The county’s health department has been conducting the program with the county’s Department of Public Works since June at seven wastewater treatment plants twice a week, according to Gedin.

Stetson Miller

Stetson Miller is an anchor and reporter for WTOP. He has worked in TV newsrooms for the last several years in New York, Baltimore, Washington and Charleston, SC.

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