MOUNT VERNON — A Kenyon microbiology professor spoke with Knox Public Health Commissioner Julie Miller on the KPH weekly Facebook Live videocast Wednesday, offering that testing wastewater samples in Gambier and Mount Vernon for traces of COVID-19 particles “shed” through the human waste system is designed to save lives.
Professor Joan Slonczewski said the recently initiated testing involves Kenyon College working with a Florida-based laboratory, Source Molecular, to collect and test samples of wastewater at the molecular level for traces of shed coronavirus particles. The good news so far is that samples of wastewater taken from local wastewater plants in Gambier and Mount Vernon show “no detectable levels” of COVID-19. All involved — the colleges, municipalities and communities they serve — want to keep it that way, Slonczewski and Miller said.
As of Wednesday, following the results of drive-through community testing in Centerburg Monday, the county has now tested 1,370 Knox County residents. With about half of the results in, two people out of the 175 tested positive for the virus so far.
Of that number, there have been 36 who have tested positive since local testing began in March, demonstrating a low rate of infection, according to KPH. Surrounding counties show considerably higher COVID-19 positive case totals than Knox. The positive cases from the Centerburg testing involved a Franklin County resident and one from Licking County. The two newest Knox cases involved a 22-year-old woman and a 34-year-old woman, both from Danville but unrelated, according to KPH. Both cases have been attributed to community spread.
Wearing masks, social distancing and individual hygienic practices like frequent hand washing along with frequent cleaning of surfaces are all important guidelines to follow, Miller said, and are required in some cases, such as business employees wearing masks with few exceptions. She thanked Slonczewski for emphasizing the importance of mask-wearing.
“Our rates of infection look pretty low now in the county as a whole,” Slonczewski said. “But at any moment, someone could be infected and start a superspreader situation, and how can we predict that?”
Slonczewski explained that a “superspreader” situation involves an individual infected with COVID-19 who does not know they have the virus for a week or more as symptoms develop. In the meantime, he or she is spreading the virus unknowingly at parties, churches, and other places where they have close contact with others. About 90 percent of COVID-19 cases come from these “superspreader” events, Slonczewski added.
Working with Source Molecular will help detect these virus carriers because the virus may show up in wastewater a week before a person shows symptoms and may need hospitalization, she said. She likened it to having an “early jump” on possible outbreak detection. Source Molecular was one of the first companies that were government-accredited to do such testing. Slonczewski said the lab work performed is similar to testing of throat samples for viruses, but in this case, the virus particles are “shed,” or dead and found in wastewater.
“At Kenyon, we understand these molecular tests because we teach them to our students, and we understand the results,” she said.
Miller said the sooner that communities have such data, the sooner they can understand the risks and take steps to contain COVID-19 spread. One way to do so, as Kenyon has indicated in its reopening plan, is to test students, faculty and staff as needed, and consider shelter-in-place safeguards. Kenyon has recently announced that wearing masks — in buildings and their classrooms, and when walking about campus — will be a way of life when students return in mid-August for classes.
KPH has announced that its next round of free COVID-19 community drive-thru testing will be Monday from 1-3 p.m. in Danville at the Community Health Center, 16 E. Main Street, next to Conway’s Pharmacy. Testing with nasal swabs administered by nurses will take place in the parking lot behind the health center. Paperwork for each participant will be handled over the phone. Testing is available to anyone 18 years or older, regardless of whether he or she believes they may have symptoms.
Testing will be by appointment only. Those who wish to be tested may call the KPH COVID-19 call line, 740-399-8014.
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|Results||Age||Gender||Tested in||Details||Current Status|
|3/20||28||Female||Franklin||Works in Franklin County; Not Hospitalized||Recovered|
|3/23||71||Male||Knox||Traveled from Florida; Hospitalized at KCH||Recovered|
|3/29||38||Male||Licking||Works in Franklin County||Recovered|
|3/30||72||Female||Franklin||Hospitalized at KCH||Recovered|
|4/1||90||Male||Florida||Hospitalized in Florida||Deceased|
|4/5||72||Female||Knox||Exposed to a confirmed case in another county||Recovered|
|4/8||28||Male||Knox||Works in Marion County; Not hospitalized||Recovered|
|4/10||77||Female||Knox||No Known Exposure||Recovered|
|4/12||22||Female||Knox||Works in Knox and Franklin County||Recovered|
|4/15||54||Male||Knox||Works in Marion County||Recovered|
|4/19||37||Female||Knox||Works in Richland County||Recovered|
|4/21||39||Male||Knox||Exposure to another confirmed case||Recovered|
|4/22||54||Male||Knox||Works in Knox County||Recovered|
|4/23||45||Male||Knox||Healthcare worker in Marion County||Recovered|
|4/29||79||Female||Knox||Recently returned from Florida||Recovered|
|5/1||58||Male||Franklin||Works in Franklin County||Recovered|
|5/1||32||Male||Knox||Works in Franklin County||Recovered|
|5/3||30||Female||Knox||Works in Licking County||Recovered|
|5/6||56||Female||Knox||Healthcare worker in Mahoning and Knox County||Recovered|
|5/15||56||Female||Franklin||Healthcare worker in Franklin County||Recovered|
|5/17||2||Male||Franklin||Tested at Children’s Hospital; Exposed to positive case||Recovered|
|5/18||53||Male||Knox||Works in Marion County||Recovered|
|5/28||29||Female||Knox||Exposed to a positive case||Recovered|
|5/29||63||Male||Knox||Works in Union County||Recovered|
|6/6||65||Female||Knox||Tested at KPH drive-thru||Recovered|
|6/7||75||Male||Knox||Tested at KPH drive-thru||Recovered|
|6/8||31||Male||Delaware||Healthcare worker in Franklin County||Recovered|
|6/9||72||Male||Richland||Tested prior to medical procedure||Recovered|
|6/10||74||Male||Knox||No Known Exposure; Community Spread||Recovered|
|6/10||56||Male||Knox||Healthcare worker; No Known Exposure||Recovered|
|6/11||31||Male||Knox||Works in Licking County||Recovered|
|6/14||44||Female||Knox||Healthcare worker; Works in Ashland County.||Home Isolation|
|6/20||62||Female||Cleveland Clinic||Exposure contributed to community spread.||Home Isolation|
|6/24||22||Female||Centerburg KPH Drive Thru||Exposure contributed to community spread.||Home Isolation|
|6/24||34||Female||Centerburg KPH Drive Thru||Exposure contributed to community spread.||Home Isolation|
SOURCE: Knox Public Health June 25, 2020 @ 9:00 a.m.