A water district in Maine is collecting sewage samples for testing to determine the prevalence of the coronavirus based on what's being flushed down the toilet.
The Greater Augusta Utility District began collecting samples of sewage this week at its wastewater treatment plant. Those samples are being sent to a Massachusetts company that's pioneering efforts to test for traces of the coronavirus in sewage collected from treatment plants.
The data could provide information on how widespread the virus is in the local population, and could aid local officials in their decision making, the Kennebec Journal reported.
Most data on the spread of the coronavirus currently comes from individual testing. The water district, using Keep Maine Healthy funding obtained by the city of Augusta, hopes to take advantage of another measure of the virus' prevalence, or lack thereof, in a community.
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The grants are from the federal CARES Act, administered by the Maine Department of Health and Human Service's Keep Maine Healthy program. The city received about $155,000 from the program.
Health officials in Maine reported 20 new cases of the virus on Friday, bringing the total number of reported cases to 3,757. Eleven of the new cases are connected to Marshwood Center, a long-term case facility in Lewiston that is the site of an outbreak.
The state did not report any new deaths from the virus. That number held steady at 118.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause more severe illness and can lead to death.