In order to reach the debt ceiling deal, Biden had to make a lot of compromises—including limiting funding for COVID-19 and other public health needs. The deal could make it harder for state and local governments to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, track disease through programs like wastewater surveillance, and prepare for future health threats.
The COVID-19 plateau of the last few weeks continues at the national level, though experts are concerned that a summer surge could occur in parts of the country. Wastewater surveillance and testing data are indicating potential increases in the New York City region.
This past week, Virginia’s health department added a new wastewater surveillance section to its COVID-19 dashboard. The new section includes a map of testing sites, coronavirus trends by site, viral loads over time, and plenty of text explaining how to interpret the data.
Nationwide, COVID-19 spread in the U.S. continues to be in a somewhat-middling plateau: lower than the massive amount of Omicron transmission we all got used to throughout late 2022, but still higher than the lulls between outbreaks we saw in prior years.
A few months ago, I wrote about how testing sewage from airplanes could be a valuable way to keep tabs on the coronavirus variants circulating around the world. This spring, San Francisco International Airport became the first in the U.S. to actually start doing this tracking; I covered their new initiative for Science News.
We’re now less than one week out from May 11, when the federal public health emergency (or PHE) for COVID-19 will end. While this change doesn’t actually signify that COVID-19 is no longer worth worrying about, it marks a major shift in how U.S. governments will respond to the ongoing pandemic, including how the disease is tracked and what public services are available. Here’s all the key info you should know about this, in one place.
This week, I have a new story out in Scientific American about why the wastewater surveillance infrastructure built during the pandemic may not last in the long term. While current monitoring projects aren’t likely to go anywhere right now, issues with funding, uneven commitments at state and local levels, and the overall novelty of this field may lead those programs to shut down in the coming years.
While official COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to trend ever-so-slightly downward, wastewater surveillance data show potential new upticks in transmission. Despite continued minimal safety measures in most places, we have to remain wary of a potential spring surge.