Frederick County to try new coronavirus testing method

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Frederick, Md. (WDVM) — The Frederick County Department of Health has now begun testing for the novel coronavirus in a new and slightly unexpected way.

Starting this week, Frederick County will begin testing untreated wastewater from the city’s largest water treatment plant to see how widespread the coronavirus is in the county.

Testing originally started in May at the Ballenger-McKinney wastewater treatment plant and will now commence at the Gas House Pike Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Findings from other tests have shown that an infected person will shed genetic material of the virus regardless of whether they have shown symptoms. Now by testing wastewater, the county can potentially have the ability to detect trends or new waves of infections before it becomes widely spread in the community.

Acting director of the Utilities & Solid Waste Management Division, Mark Schweitzer says that officials and analysts are not looking for genetic code that could link data to a specific person, only for the genetic coding for COVID-19.

“For a public health official, it could provide some valuable trending information. Is the community seeing infections on the rise? Are they seeing infections decreasing because social distancing, mask wearing, and other things that we are asking people to do are actually working.”

Mark Schweitzer
Acting director of the Utilities & Solid Waste Management Division, Frederick County Department of Health

Schweitzer also stated that the coronavirus has been detected in some wastewater samples, the data is still being analyzed and it is too early to detail any findings.

Although this is a new way to detect coronavirus, Schweitzer also emphasized that this is no replacement for actual COVID tests and that residents should continue to wear masks as well as practice social distancing.

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