Rollins College testing campus wastewater for COVID-19

Rollins College is examining human waste in the sewage below campus in search of COVID-19. The hope is that the research will assist in tracking the spread of coronavirus.

“The test can pinpoint infection levels to the point of single individuals,” said Rollins College Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Susan Singer.

The viral trace of COVID can be found in one's waste. The school is collecting waste samples from each residence hall on campus three days a week.

“We pull samples every 15 minutes over a 24-hour period,” explained Rollins College master plumber Scott Roderick.

Those samples are then sent to a lab in Massachusetts, and the results come back to campus in a few days.

“Obviously, COVID’s a very new thing to all of us, and I was skeptical at first until the results started coming back and then we started seeing results,” said Roderick.

Those results generally give administrators three to five days heads up about cases on campus. For instance, one week a residence hall was sampled and nothing was found.

“Then the next week there was a spike. It was less than one new case per day anticipated seven days out, and it turned out that a few days after, we had one individual who was positive,” said Singer.

Rollins College is examining human waste in the sewage below campus in search of the COVID-19.

Comparing it with other data, the school can determine where and when quarantines and isolations are needed.

“I’m actually feeling very gratified. We all want to be helpful during a time where it’s unclear where things are going and what’s the right thing to do.”

Students are not involved in waste collection but have asked to analyze the data as part of an honors project. They plan to offer additional safety precautions based on the data.