Cuyahoga County Jail may begin wastewater testing to detect signs of COVID-19 outbreaks among inmates. | TIM EVANSON VIA FLICKR
Thirty-six Ohio prisons are turning to wastewater testing in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Whenever any imprisoned person is infected with the coronavirus, the subsequent spread is extremely difficult to control due to close living arrangements. Through wastewater testing, prisons will be able to detect the presence of the virus before it would show up in a traditional test, as reported by the Dispatch.
The virus often appears in the wastewater about a week earlier than people usually become ill, get tested and receive their confirmed results. This faster detection will allow Ohio prisons to take the necessary precautions in preventing further infections. Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Annette Chambers-Smith told the Dispatch this would be “precious time.”
Chambers-Smith also explained that state prisons are working on adapting their ventilation systems. “State prisons have installed special filters in their heating and cooling systems and are pumping in more outside air instead of recirculating air indoors,” she told the Dispatch.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise within the state of Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine is trying many different options to help limit the spread. Currently, he is investing in rapid testing that will help Ohioans, including state prisoners, to detect infections much earlier, hopefully mitigating transmission. The Dispatch reports that as of Sept. 29 there have been 152,907 positive COVID-19 tests in the state of Ohio, and 6,310 of these positive tests were inmates at state prisons. Public officials hope the wastewater testing, in combination with additional rapid tests and increased air circulation, will help to reduce these numbers in several locations.