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City of Barrie to start tracking coronavirus in municipal wastewater

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Research shows sewage could help detect COVID-19 outbreaks' Coronavirus: Research shows sewage could help detect COVID-19 outbreaks
A group of researchers across Quebec is testing local sewage samples in order to track the spread of the virus in the province. – Jan 9, 2021

The City of Barrie will start tracking the amount of the coronavirus present in its municipal wastewater as part of an Ontario-wide initiative.

Starting this week, the city will provide samples from its wastewater treatment facility to labs that will determine the amount of the virus present. Officials said the data could help inform whether the number of people infected with COVID-19 in Barrie is increasing, decreasing or staying the same.

Read more: How your sewage could help track coronavirus in your neighbourhood

“Wastewater surveillance serves as an additional tool that the health unit can employ in conjunction with other sources of information, such as testing data, in effectively understanding and responding to COVID within our communities,” Dr. Lisa Simon, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s associate medical officer of health, said in a statement.

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Studies have shown that a significant proportion of people infected with COVID-19 shed the virus in their stool — sometimes even before symptoms begin.

Ontario’s Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks is supporting Ontario Tech University to run testing and analyses on the wastewater samples. Barrie’s wastewater treatment facility will courier samples directly to Ontario Tech University’s lab in Oshawa.

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Coronavirus: Ontario announces $12M to detect COVID-19 in wastewater – Nov 5, 2020

The City of Barrie will also provide its wastewater samples to the University of Ottawa. The samples will be from the city’s wastewater treatment facility and from the collection system near Roberta Place.

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The city said the samples will help the University of Ottawa with the research it’s doing on the B.1.1.7. variant, which was first discovered in the U.K.

Read more: 32 new COVID-19 U.K. variant cases confirmed in Simcoe Muskoka, total now at 51

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City officials said the new initiative poses no risk to the public or city workers.

“Wastewater systems are closed off from the public and there is currently no epidemiological evidence that wastewater is a route of transmission of COVID-19,” officials said.

“Wastewater workers will continue to follow routine practices to prevent exposure to wastewater.”

The coronavirus wastewater surveillance initiative is part of Ontario’s COVID-19 fall preparedness plan. The province is spending $12.2 million over the next two years to partner and support Ontario universities and municipalities that are conducting research to enhance coronavirus detection in wastewater.

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Toronto to begin weekly sewage tests for COVID-19 with a couple of weeks – Oct 15, 2020

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