Two weeks ago I wrote an article explaining that the CDC has a new wastewater contract, essentially transferring responsibility for COVID-19 testing at hundreds of wastewater treatment plants across the country from Biobot Analytics to a company called Verily, which is affiliated with Google. In the time since that post, I have seen some other articles and social media posts alleging that, thanks to the contract change, Biobot will no longer be posting any COVID-19 data on their dashboard. This is inaccurate!
It is true that Biobot no longer has access to data from about 400 sites that were part of the CDC contract. But Biobot still has its own testing network separate from the CDC’s—which actually predated its contract with the agency—and which includes hundreds of other sites across the country that either have individual contracts with Biobot or are receiving free testing in exchange for sharing data.
Copying from my post two weeks ago: on Biobot’s dashboard, “County-level data won’t change. National and regional data will still be available, but are likely to be less comprehensive pictures of wastewater trends across the U.S., if I’m right about Biobot no longer including CDC contract sites in those visualizations.” In fact, Biobot updated its dashboard this past Friday and will resume weekly updates soon, after making some changes to its data processing systems, according to social media posts from the company.
Meanwhile, it is currently unclear how the new contract will impact data on the CDC’s wastewater dashboard as well as on Verily’s own dashboard. On the CDC dashboard, you can see that contract sites are not reporting wastewater data while they switch testing providers. Verily has a dashboard that currently shows data from WastewaterSCAN, a separate program that already uses Verily to test its samples; this dashboard hasn’t added CDC sites yet as far as I know.
I’m not sharing the inaccurate posts I mentioned to avoid giving them extra attention, but I wanted to provide this extra update in case any readers had seen those posts and were confused. Once again: Biobot is still sharing data, it’s just less comprehensive, and I would still recommend going to their dashboard for COVID-19 trends. In this era of fragmented surveillance, it’s always good to rely on multiple dashboards (eg. CDC, Biobot, WastewaterSCAN) rather than just one.