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Future of wastewater COVID-19 tracking in Saskatchewan in question

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Future of wastewater COVID-19 tracking in Saskatchewan in question
For the past two years, wastewater numbers have given people a snap shot of COVID-19 viral levels in the province's biggest centres, but come September things are about to change. Kayla Guerrette has more about the future of the team tracking the numbers. – Jul 19, 2022

For the past two years, wastewater numbers have given people a snapshot of viral levels in the provinces biggest centers.

But come September, things are about to change.

The head of the wastewater research team is retiring and others are returning to their home countries due to expired work permits.

“I’m actively trying to replace them,” said John Giesy, University of Saskatchewan wastewater research team lead. “The problem we are encountering is it’s taking maybe eight months to get approvals for work permits.”

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Giesy said a few key people have been identified from around the world as potential candidates for the new wastewater research team. Right now, however, it’s a waiting game to see if they will be allowed to work at the university.

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He said this type of research is unique and very few people in the world are able to do this kind of work so it’s been challenging.

“Hopefully one of my colleagues will take over in the future after I am not here,” said Giesy

Giesy and his team originally started working with the wastewater plant regarding other issues when the pandemic hit Saskatchewan two years ago.

Read more: University of Saskatchewan saw record enrollment during 2021-22 school year

Today they are now funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

He said this research is important now more than ever because clinical monitoring of the virus is no longer happening in the province.

“They have been one of the leaders in Canada,” said Nazeem Muhajarine, a Saskatchewan epidemiologist.

“They quickly turned to wastewater to understand at a city level, population level, the spread of COVID-19. So, to lose the person who was instrumental in doing that is a big loss.”

Giesy’s official last day is in September but he said he won’t be walking away completely, just taking a backseat to something he has been leading throughout the pandemic.

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