State officials want to continue COVID-19 wastewater testing

March 11, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — State officials want to use another round of federal stimulus money to continue testing wastewater for variants of COVID-19 in North Dakota.

The coronavirus wastewater testing began last July and would end in June if funding isn’t continued.

Twenty-one communities are participating in the testing statewide. Wastewater from those cities is analyzed at a North Dakota State University lab where researchers look for the virus contained in the fecal matter of people who are infected.

David Bruschwein is the director of the Division of Municipal Facilities for the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality. Bruschwein says the wastewater analysis is helpful in pinpointing communities that might need more regular virus testing, given that far fewer people are opting for tests now than at the height of the pandemic, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

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“People are just getting tired of testing,” he said. “This actually might become an indicator now.”

North Dakota’s House last month approved and sent to the Senate a bill to require a public hearing and a vote before local officials decide to participate in such testing. The House killed a bill to ban wastewater testing.

Congress on Wednesday passed a $1.9 trillion relief bill that President Joe Biden is expected to sign later this week.