Wastewater Based Epidemiology (WBE) Lab & Testing
As a result of a generous donation from Jesus Tovar of T&P Farms and funding from Yuma County, The Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture (YCEDA) established a biosafety level 2 laboratory at the Yuma Agricultural Center for wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) in 2020 and launched weekly wastewater testing in Yuma County, in collaboration with Dr. Ian Pepper at the UArizona WEST Center, to help detect COVID-19 infection, mitigate the spread of the virus, and advert outbreaks in Yuma communities. Additional funding from Yuma County and Arizona Department of Health Services supported pilot projects to expand the weekly testing and assess WBE as an early-warning tool for identifying high or increasing COVID-19 disease prevalence throughout Yuma County. Funding from the State of Arizona, Office of the Governor enhanced the lab capabilities enabling YCEDA to incorporate near real-time SARS-CoV-2 variant testing through genome sequencing into ongoing efforts improving monitoring efforts and allowing for identification of new variants.
Dr. Bradley Schmitz, a national expert in organizing and executing WBE programs, aids in developing protocols for wastewater testing for SARS-CoV-2 quantification, data modeling and interpretation. A county-wide steering committee was established to guide and implement public health response and communication.