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COVID wastewater testing data to be published for Pima County

Health experts and public health authorities in Pima County hope wastewater testing data will help find concentrations COVID-19 infections sooner, as cases are on the rise again. 

Wastewater testing has been in motion since the pandemic’s early days. University of Arizona researchers say traces of COVID show up in feces, even from people who are asymptomatic. 

Those traces give early clues into the level of community spread. It gives public health personnel more time to plan and predict big spikes. 

COVID infections are climbing again in Pima County. Local health department data showed a positivity rate as high as 16% at the end of May.

Ian Pepper, the environmental microbiologist who directs the University of Arizona lab where testing takes place, told the Arizona Daily Star his team is launching a new data dashboard this summer of their findings, similar to the one in Tempe. They say it will provide same-day estimates of the total number of cases.  

The team also has a forthcoming paper on the findings. 

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.