Sewage surveillance

Wastewater Manager Johnny Ziem jumped on the opportunity to bring a sewage surveillance program to Teton County. “I knew that this would be a dataset we wanted to collect,” he said. The state of Wyoming is also beginning a wastewater surveillance program.

The Wyoming Public Health Laboratory has seriously increased its coronavirus testing capacity.

The lab can now process more than 750 tests per day, State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said at a press conference Wednesday. When the pandemic started, the lab could only go through a few samples per day, so that is a drastic improvement.

The Wyoming Department of Health will also start implementing new tests as part of state’s surveillance testing program. Cheek swabs, rather than nasal ones, are used as part of some rapid tests, federal CARES Act funding will be used to help those programs, though the state lab isn't processing that kind of test.

Cheek-swab tests will be used in high-risk places that need quick turnarounds on tests, like correctional facilities, which have seen devastating localized outbreaks around the country. Wastewater surveillance, which Teton County is also doing, will be added to the state’s tools for monitoring the spread of COVID-19.

Larger cities will be first in line for the wastewater testing, Harrist said, but smaller communities will be able to send in samples once the program gets rolling.

This article has been updated to show that the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory is not processing cheek swab tests. — Ed.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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