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UMass Amherst has been testing wastewater of individual buildings to limit spread of COVID-19

The UMass Amherst campus.
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The UMass Amherst campus.

UMass Amherst has been testing its wastewater to help fight the spread of COVID-19. Since early January, the presence of the virus on campus has dropped significantly.

For about two years, UMass has been testing the wastewater on campus, including the outflow from dormitories.

It now studies individual samples from more than 40 buildings and does so at least three times per week.

Peter Reinhart, who is the technical supervisor at the university's clinical testing lab, said the results have helped UMass identify COVID outbreaks early and respond accordingly.

"Let's just say [there's a] dorm [with] 500 people," he said. "We see an elevated signal. We send out an an email to just those 500 residents, saying, please come in and provide a nasal swab."

Students who test positive have been sent home to isolate or have isolated on campus.

Reinhart said that since the start of the calendar year, the positivity rate for COVID-19 on campus has dropped from 15% to between 3 and 4%.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education, and politics. Working with correspondent Morley Safer, he reported from locations across the United States as well as from India, Costa Rica, Italy, and Iraq.
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