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Maloney Calls on White House to Expedite Wastewater Testing of COVID-19

Jul 24, 2020
Press Release

Maloney Calls on White House to Expedite Wastewater Testing of COVID-19

 

Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) called on White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Senior Advisor to the President, Jared Kushner, to expedite funding opportunities for wastewater testing of COVID-19.

 

“We can’t leave any stone unturned as we work to contain COVID-19, and testing wastewater has helped communities across the country catch outbreaks before they spread. I’m calling on the White House to cut the red tape and help every state and locality access this testing tool as cases rise across the country,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney.

 

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 are able to detect spikes in coronavirus infections weeks before clinical diagnoses. 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.

 

Testing for COVID-19 in wastewater plants is occurring on a small scale, but the rollout of testing programs has been slow and has included virtually no federal funding. A new National Institutes of Health funding source that supports non-traditional approaches to testing, the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Radical Initiative (RADx-rad), included a demand for applications regarding wastewater detection, but awardees would not receive funding until the end of this year. Rep. Maloney’s letter requested an expedited award date for this funding, and dedicated funding for localities to create wastewater testing programs.

 

Read the letter here, and below:

 

The Honorable Mark Meadows

Chief of Staff

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. Meadows:

 

I write to urge you to expedite funding opportunities for wastewater testing of COVID-19. Wastewater testing will allow us to track COVID-19 in most communities around the country simply by sending samples to qualified, preexisting laboratories. This method captures all carriers, but particularly asymptomatic carriers, much more effectively than individual clinical testing. Ultimately, wastewater testing will help us better plan based on accurate infection rates and provide warning signs of resurgence.

 

As you probably know, this testing is already occurring on a small scale. The Center for Environmental Health Engineering at Arizona State University has been testing wastewater, previously for seasonal flu, for COVID-19 in part based on a $1.5 million grant from the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is performing similar work as are researchers in Colorado, Ohio and New York. There are nearly 15,000 wastewater treatment plants throughout the United States covering nearly 75 percent of the country’s population. Laboratories like these will detect COVID-19 infection rates in most of the U.S. population weeks before clinical diagnoses. In fact, testing wastewater downstream from high-density, high-risk populations like nursing homes, prisons and dormitories will allow targeted individual testing in an earlier, potentially lifesaving manner. Moreover, researchers agree this method of testing will be logistically easier and significantly more cost effective.  

 

On July 10, 2020, the NIH published a Funding Opportunity Announcement for the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Radical Initiative (RADx-rad) to support new, non-traditional approaches or new applications of existing approaches addressing current gaps in COVID-19 testing. Included in this announcement was a demand for applications regarding wastewater detection. I applaud the NIH assessment that wastewater testing should be included in this program. Unfortunately, the announcement indicates that the estimated award date is December 2020 and no funding amount has been indicated.

 

I implore you to expedite the award date for this funding opportunity to allow for early COVID-19 detection especially as we enter the fall. Alternatively, I ask for your support in future coronavirus relief legislation to provide localities with dedicated funding for wastewater testing. Funding for quick and easy testing could not be more important as the country braces for the fall when seasonal flu and COVID symptoms will be more difficult to distinguish without widespread, highly accurate testing in communities across the country.

 

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Sincerely,

Sean Patrick Maloney

Member of Congress

 

 

cc: Jared Kushner

Senior Advisor

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

 

Anthony S. Fauci MD
Director, National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases

5601 Fishers Lane, MSC 9806
Bethesda, MD 20892

 

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