(ITHACA, N.Y.) – The Tompkins County Health Department is sharing details with the community on wastewater testing for COVID-19 in Tompkins County. At this time, both the Village of Cayuga Heights and the City of Ithaca have begun wastewater testing as part of a New York State program, with details available on the New York State website.
In many instances in communities where other forms of testing are not as widespread, wastewater testing is used as an early warning indicator for the spread of COVID-19. Due to the widescale availability, accessibility, and uptake of PCR and self-tests for COVID-19 in Tompkins County, TCHD is asking the community to continue to focus on metrics published by TCHD and the CDC and use wastewater treatment data as an additional source for information on risk and the spread of the disease.
There is no change in TCHD’s COVID-19 testing guidance at this time. For information on when to get tested, what types of tests are available and recommended for whom, and how to access testing, visit the TCHD website.
Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa stated, “I encourage those who are interested in results from wastewater testing to monitor the New York State web page for updates, but I would caution anyone looking at this wastewater data as a local indicator of disease prevalence. As this data comes from municipalities that have a wide crossover of individuals who live, visit, and commute in to work, such as the City of Ithaca or the Village of Cayuga Heights, which is adjacent to Cornell University, the data from wastewater testing does not necessarily offer a clear picture of prevalence for that community specifically, but rather for the region in general.”
Kruppa added, “Wastewater testing for COVID-19 is really an early indicator and something that communities without robust PCR and self-test accessibility are using to inform their public health messaging. Tompkins County has been a leader in testing throughout the pandemic, with several thousand PCR tests run in the last week alone, and nearly 2 million total PCR tests run over the past two years. I am confident that the testing data that we have access to and report to the public are clear and consistent indicators of the prevalence of the disease in Tompkins County. I hope that we will be able to use wastewater testing in the future as other testing becomes less prevalent and build from this infrastructure to identify other infectious diseases and inform public health messaging and activities.”
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