Modelling SARS-CoV-2 movement through a city via municipal sewage networks: Kamloops, British Columbia COVID‑19 reemergence warning system pilot project
As local, regional and national governments grapple with planning for loosening physical distancing restrictions relating to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in the absence of a vaccine or widespread herd immunity, tools for viral monitoring at a population-wide level are essential. These tools include testing individuals for viral infection, immunological testing to detect prior viral exposure, and contact tracing. This project builds on international efforts to monitor levels of viral genetic material in community sewage collection and treatment systems. This collaboration between Thompson Rivers University, the City of Kamloops, Urban Systems Inc., the University of Regina, the British Columbia Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy, with direction from the British Columbia Ministry of Health, will measure baseline population-scale levels of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material for the city of Kamloops, and targeted sub-populations in Kamloops using samples from the sewage collection network. This information will be put in context of viral outbreak data collected by local health authorities, such that continual monitoring of viral levels in sewage can be used as an early indicator of viral reemergence until such a time as a vaccine is widely available. Importantly, methodologies, datasets, best practices and experiences gained here will be widely shared with communities across Canada, and with the growing network of international researchers working in this area. This work will also be informed by similar efforts that have been described for polio, norovirus and hepatitis A in countries such as Japan, Sweden and Italy.