Colleges and universities which are opening for in-person, on campus classes this week and the next are apparently stopping at nothing to ensure they can detect COVID-19 cases early, especially as they struggle to prevent total campus shutdowns as happened last March when the pandemic hit the US, also as in many cases the very financial survival of a number of institutions of higher learning is at stake.
Already stringent virus testing measures are in effect for new and returning students, but some schools are going to more extreme lengths. Testing students' shit - literally - is now a thing, apparently.
"The University of Arizona found early signs of COVID-19 in a student dorm this week by testing wastewater and were able to head off an outbreak there, school leaders announced Thursday," the daily newspaper Arizona Republic reports.
"Researchers at the school have looked for traces of the virus in wastewater samples taken from the greater Tucson area since March and have gathered samples from 20 buildings on the UA campus since school started," the report states.
The campus has some 5,000 students currently moving into their on-campus dorms and housing. At least one of the dorms' sewage water came back positive for traces of COVID-19.
"Earlier this week, data collected from the dorms found higher viral loads in wastewater samples taken from Likins Hall," AZ Republic writes further. This led the school to test all newly arrived 311 students in that dorm, resulting in discovery of two COVID-19 positive cases.
The positive students were said to be asymptomatic, which suggests they could have spread the disease far and wide before any detection, if not for the new sewage monitoring.
Meanwhile a report in The Washington Post notes that other schools like University of California are doing the same.
This also as there are nationwide efforts underway to put some kind of wastewater COVID-19 detection tracking system in place, as the virus is believed to appear in feces often prior to the onset of symptoms like fever, coughs, and headaches.