HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston Health Department launched a new online dashboard that tracks the levels of the COVID-19 virus in the city's wastewater.
The city has been collecting weekly samples from 39 wastewater treatment plants and many HISD schools since May 2020 and tracking the levels of the virus detected, but now, Houstonians can see the levels themselves at any time.
People with COVID-19 shed particles of the virus in their feces, which can then be detected in the samples of the wastewater.
The new, interactive dashboard displays the levels of the virus in the samples taken from around the city. The data can help identify the prevalence of the virus and trends at the community level.
The dashboard, which was built in collaboration with Rice University, is color-coded by the level of viral load in wastewater samples. It plots the viral load levels against the area's positivity rate.
"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."
According to the dashboard, as of Sept. 6, 2021, the city is seeing a 385% increase in viral load detection, compared to July 2020, with an overall 16% COVID positivity rate.
To see the new COVID-19 wastewater monitoring dashboard or information about vaccination sites, testing sites and more, visit houstonemergency.org/covid19.
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