HOUSTON – The Houston Health Department and Rice University have launched an online public dashboard tracking the level of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in Houston’s wastewater.
The interactive dashboard displays levels of the virus in samples collected from the city’s 39 wastewater treatment plants and many HISD schools, according to a news release. The data helps identify the prevalence of the virus and trends at the community level.
City officials said the health department, Houston Water, Rice University, and Baylor College of Medicine started testing the city’s wastewater in May 2020 to more quickly identify emerging outbreaks and hotspots needing interventions to help stop the spread of the virus.
“This new dashboard is another tool Houstonians can use to gauge the situation and make informed decisions to protect their families,” said Dr. Loren Hopkins, chief environmental science officer for the health department and professor in the practice of statistics at Rice University. “A high level of virus in your neighborhood’s wastewater means virus is spreading locally and you should be even more stringent about masking up when visiting public places.”
People infected with COVID-19 shed viral particles in their feces, heath officials said. By testing the wastewater, the health department can measure to see whether levels of the virus in communities are increasing, decreasing, or staying the same.
For more information on the interactive COVID-19 wastewater monitoring dashboard, vaccination sites, and testing sites, go to houstonemergency.org/covid19.