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City of Oswego, SUNY Oswego to track COVID-19 spread through wastewater

WRVO News (file photo)

Tracking the spread of the coronavirus is traditionally done through diagnostic testing and contact tracing, but Oswego is utilizing another method to contain the virus - samples taken from the city's wastewater system. It may be unconventional, yet Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow says it works.

"What this allows us to do is really complement the efforts of the county health department in helping to know the presence of COVID-19 in our community that otherwise we may not know or may not track down and then track it down quickly once we do get those samples," Barlow said.

Once a sample comes back positive for COVID-19 from either the city's west or east side wastewater facilities, the city can then narrow the search by taking samples further up the system until the source is found. Barlow said the process can be slow at times, but it has proven to be effective and is expected to aid in the tracking efforts as SUNY Oswego students return to campus this fall.

"We'll be able to actually trace back not only to the SUNY campus but to the actual dorm and where that positive case may be," He said.

SUNY Oswego officials said the college is supporting the city's efforts and is in the process of engaging an outside company to provide the same type of analysis for its wastewater discharge.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.