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Illinois to expand wastewater testing for COVID, other pathogens

Illinois expanding COVID wastewater testing to 20 K-12 schools
Illinois expanding COVID wastewater testing to 20 K-12 schools 00:27

CHICAGO (CBS) -- In an effort to stop the next COVID-19 outbreak before it starts, Illinois is expanding its wastewater testing program.

In partnership with the University of Illinois Discovery Partners Institute, the Illinois Department of Public Health said it will pick 20 K-12 schools across Illinois take part in a 25-week pilot program.

The schools will be both elementary and middle schools in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

Samples will be collected from the schools' sewer systems twice a week – and will then be analyzed for COVID and influenza DNA.

"This is another layer of protection, not just for COVID, but for public health in general," Discovery Partners Institute Senior Project Manager Laura Clements, who leads DPI's wastewater efforts, said in a news release. "We're putting in infrastructure and services that will protect Illinoisans for generations to come."

Health officials say wastewater testing is cheaper than saliva tests, and can conduct an outbreak before patients develop symptoms.

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