GVSU working with counties to continue COVID-19 wastewater testing


Laura Shattuck, a cell and molecular biology graduate student, prepares wastewater samples for further processing in the molecular monitoring for health and environment lab in GVSU’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences July 28. (Courtesy Grand Valley State University)

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Valley State University says state grants will allow it to expand testing wastewater for COVID-19 for the next two years.

GVSU’s Annis Water Resources Institute and Cell and Molecular Biology Department have been testing wastewater in several municipalities for months, working to identify coronavirus outbreaks early. Experts say it can identify the presence of the virus up to a week before people start showing symptoms.

The university will now work with the Kent County Health Department, which was given $3.3 million from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the Ottawa County Department of Public Health, which received $1.7 million, to conduct testing in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties.

“We’re going to be testing for the general coronavirus and also for different variants,” AWRI Professor Rick Rediske explained in a Thursday statement. “We can broadly screen populations, cities and communities with wastewater much easier and faster than we can set up testing facilities with nasal swabs. It’s a less invasive and rapid test to look at populations to see if there’s a problem.”

Samples from Muskegon and Ottawa counties are being tested twice per week. Among the areas being sampled in the fall will be GVUS’s Allendale campus and Muskegon Community College.

Earlier this month, Hope College in Holland said it had gotten a $7.5 million grant from the state to expand its wastewater testing program and continue it for two years. It is conducting testing in Allegan, Berry, Branch, Calhoun, Eaton, Hillsdale, Kalamazoo, Ottawa and St. Joseph counties.

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