Indiana Borough officials said Thursday that they will incorporate into the Together Indiana outreach campaign information about the level of coronavirus infections detected at its wastewater treatment plant.
For several months, the borough has been among 360 entities across the country working with Biobot Analytics, a Boston-based firm that has developed technology for quantifying the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater.
The borough has been getting weekly results which it has posted on its various social media.
“We’ve seen — and Biobot confirms — that there is a correlation between infection levels and the number of cases that we see a week or two into the future,” borough Manager C. Michael Foote said.
“This enables us to provide an early warning to members of our community, who may then be able to take action to avoid contracting and spreading the virus.”
Foote said people can respond if a trend shows infections increasing by tightening up their adherence to such protocols as masking, hand-washing and safe-distancing.
He said decreasing totals will be evidence that the protocols are working.
“The specific data points don’t mean much to members of the public, but knowing whether trends are up or down gives folks one additional piece of information to help them make decisions,” Foote said. “For example, if I know infections are increasing, maybe I’ll decide to order take-out from a restaurant rather than eating in, or maybe I’ll be more vigilant about avoiding crowds.”
Council President Peter Broad said Indiana began working with Biobot before launching the Together Indiana outreach campaign, but is now rolling the two together in hopes of strengthening public support for safe practices.
“We’re at a confluence of events that makes safe practices even more important,” Broad said. “We have virus fatigue, colder weather and an increasing number of cases. At the same time, there was exceptional news recently regarding development of vaccines. If we collectively take a deep breath and do what we need to do to avoid the virus, we can make it through this — together.”
Biobot is a team of biologists, epidemiologists, data scientists, urban planners and engineers, which has successfully quantified SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
“Wastewater epidemiology is a powerful tool in providing early warning of outbreaks and helping communities open up schools and businesses safely,” said Newsha Ghaeli, president and co-founder of Biobot Analytics.
“We’re proud to be a partner with Indiana Borough in this growing nationwide effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 with wastewater epidemiology.”
Borough officials said Together Indiana is an outreach and education initiative created to provide a unifying voice for community members as efforts continue to combat the coronavirus.