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Wastewater surveillance offers encouraging signs for Flagstaff’s COVID cases

Northern Arizona University
Dr. Crystal Hepp

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention test hundreds of sewage systems nationwide for signs of the disease. Over the last two weeks, almost half of those sites showed rising COVID trends. But a local project to monitor the Flagstaff area isn’t showing an increase.

"It's good," says Crystal Hepp of Northern Arizona University, who leads the project. "Obviously we have to watch our neighbors throughout the world to see what’s going on there, but as far as Flagstaff we’re not seeing much COVID in wastewater at this point in time."

Hepp says the project has expanded to track other infectious diseases, and cautions norovirus is on the rise in the area. She says handwashing and disinfecting are important to keep the disease at bay.

The monitoring project is currently funded by university grants through the summer.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.