The Houston Health Department and Rice University launched on Wednesday 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. The data helps identify the prevalence of the virus and trends at the community level.
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.”
The dashboard is color-coded by the level of viral load in wastewater samples, labeled with arrow symbols representing the trend, and plots viral load levels against the positivity rate.
People infected with COVID-19 shed viral particles in their feces. By testing the wastewater, the health department can measure see whether levels of the virus in that community are increasing, decreasing, or staying the same.
Houstonians can find the interactive COVID-19 wastewater monitoring dashboard, vaccination sites, testing sites, and more information at houstonemergency.org/covid19.