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Maloney Calls on White House to Expand COVID-19 Testing Methods

Oct 7, 2020
Press Release

VIDEO RELEASE: Maloney Calls on White House to Expand COVID-19 Testing Methods

Newburgh, NY – Today, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) held a press conference to discuss under-utilized COVID-19 testing and monitoring systems, such as wastewater testing, and renew his call on the White House to remove the red tape around new testing methods. He was joined by State Senator James Skoufis, Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, and Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey.

“If we’re going to get through this pandemic, we need to invest in testing methods that help us see spikes in the virus before they occur,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. “I’m calling on the White House to cut the red tape, and help localities invest in technologies that test wastewater for COVID-19. We have the funds and the scientists are ready to help protect our communities – the only thing standing in the way is bureaucracy.”

Rep. Maloney has called on the White House and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease, to support funding opportunities for localities nationwide to establish wastewater testing programs for COVID-19, and expedite existing funding for nontraditional testing programs through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Though Congress appropriated funds for these research projects at the NIH, the disbursement for the projects is currently held until December of this year. 

Late this summer, Newburgh was selected by New York State for a pilot program aimed at detecting the presence of COVID-19 in wastewater. The program supported sample collection of wastewater in Newburgh and other communities across New York, and found traces of the virus in the city’s sewershed, which helped Orange County focus on testing and education efforts in the city. The state’s program recently ended, and the full results of the study are being analyzed.

“In the absence of a viable vaccine and pharmaceutical interventions, preventive measures remain a top priority. This pilot program is an instrumental biomonitoring, early detection tool that can assist with our communicable disease prevention and proactive pandemic response efforts. In Orange County, we were fortunate to have Newburgh selected by New York State as one of the sites for the pilot program aimed at detecting the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater. The $500,000 program supported sample collection of wastewater in Newburgh and other communities throughout the state. Early detection of traces of the virus alerts health officials to the need for increased testing in the areas of concern, as well as helps focus the response and testing efforts to the areas tested based on the measured viral burden,” said Dr. Irina Gelman, Commissioner of Health for Orange County.

There are nearly 15,000 wastewater treatment plants throughout the United States, covering nearly 75 percent of the country’s population. Laboratories testing wastewater for COVID-19 can detect spikes in coronavirus infections weeks before clinical diagnoses, including instances of the virus in asymptomatic carriers. Testing wastewater in communities near high-density, high-risk populations, like nursing homes, schools, prisons and college dormitories will allow targeted individual testing in an earlier, potentially lifesaving manner.

Currently, there is no nationwide program implemented to test wastewater samples for COVID-19.

The press conference was streamed live, and can be found on Rep. Maloney’s Facebook, or by clicking here: