Report From Wastewater Testing Shows Low Levels Of COVID-19 Locally

Lewis Ronald / CC BY-SA 3.0

MAYVILLE – The first results of Chautauqua County’s wastewater testing initiative returned Thursday, reporting low levels of COVID-19 in the community.

The testing, which was first discussed earlier this year, started on March 8, with samples collected from the Cities of Dunkirk and Jamestown.

“The wastewater surveillance program is an early warning system for managing COVID-19 as we transition to an endemic phase,” said Public Health Director Christine Schuyler in a statement, announcing the results of the first tests. “Ongoing global surveillance gives us a better sense of how to respond to outbreaks of this disease because we can’t play catch up”

Raw, untreated, wastewater is collected weekly at the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities Wastewater Treatment Plant and the City of Dunkirk Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Samples are taken over a 24-hour period, then sent to the University at Buffalo Department of Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering for analysis using Digital PCR technology.

“With rapid tests being widely used in the community, it is difficult for our department to monitor COVID-19 levels in the general community,” Schuyler continued. “This technology allows us to monitor COVID-19 trends and share the information with community members and health care providers.”

The PCR technology detects the number of SARS-CoV-2 RNA copies present in wastewater. During the three weeks of testing, officials said levels were less than 800 copies per liter at both the Jamestown and Dunkirk wastewater treatment plants.

According to researchers, the number of copies per Liter is generally in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands range when COVID-19 cases start to increase.

“We are encouraged to learn that the findings from wastewater testing reflect the current CDC COVID-19 Community level of ‘low,’” added Schuyler. “We urge residents to continue to take steps to protect their health and the health of their families, depending on their individual risk factors.”

The COVID-19 Wastewater Monitoring program is being developed in partnership with the City of Dunkirk, City of Jamestown, UB, the New York State Department of Health, and the National Association of City and County Health Officials.

Local data will be shared as a component of the Health Department’s weekly COVID-19 reports, and will also be included in the New York State Wastewater Surveillance Network Dashboard in the coming weeks, officials said.

A full breakdown of the data released is posted below:


COVID-19 Wastewater Monitoring Data

Dunkirk: COVID-19 Levels are LOW

Jamestown and Falconer: COVID-19 Levels are LOW

As reported on Chautauqua County’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard, the current CDC COVID-19 Community Level is low, 1.6% of lab-confirmed COVID-19 tests were positive over the prior seven days, and 3 persons were hospitalized locally due to COVID-19 or COVID-19 complications.

Vaccination rates in various age groups continue to increase at a relatively slow pace.

Chautauqua County Residents Vaccinated for COVID-19

People Vaccinated At Least One Dose Fully Vaccinated (Completed Primary Series) Percent of Fully Vaccinated Population with a Booster Dose
Total County Population 65.8% 58.9% 52.8%
Population ≥ 5 Years of Age 69.5% 62.3% N/A
Population ≥ 12 Years of Age 73.2% 65.6% 54.5%
Population ≥ 18 Years of Age 75.0% 67.0% 56.5%
Population ≥ 65 Years of Age 95.0% 83.2% 72.1%
Data as of March 29, 2022


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