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Predicting daily COVID-19 case rates from SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations across a diversity of wastewater catchments

By Alessandro Zulli, Annabelle Pan, Stephen M Bart, Forrest W. Crawford, Edward H Kaplan, Matthew Cartter, Albert Ko, Duncan Cozens, Marcela Sanchez, Doug E. Brackney, Jordan Peccia

Posted 27 Apr 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.27.21256140

We assessed the relationship between municipality COVID-19 case rates and SARS-CoV-2 concentrations in the primary sludge of corresponding wastewater treatment facilities. Over 1,000 daily primary sludge samples were collected from six wastewater treatment facilities with catchments serving 18 cities and towns in the State of Connecticut, USA. Samples were analyzed for SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations during a six-month time period that overlapped with fall 2020 and winter 2021 COVID-19 outbreaks in each municipality. We fit a single regression model to estimate reported case rates in the six municipalities from SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations collected daily from corresponding wastewater treatment facilities. Results demonstrate the ability of SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations in primary sludge to estimate COVID-19 reported case rates across treatment facilities and wastewater catchments, with coverage probabilities ranging from 0.94 to 0.96. Leave-one-out cross validation suggests that the model can be broadly applied to wastewater catchments that range in more than one order of magnitude in population served. Estimation of case rates from wastewater data can be useful in locations with limited testing availability or testing disparities, or delays in individual COVID-19 testing programs.

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