NEWBURGH – Federal, state, and local officials from Newburgh, Wednesday, urged the federal government to move forward with stimulus funding, specifically for waste-water treatment testing for COVID 19.
Following a four-week pilot program by the state in September, utilizing the technology in four areas including Newburgh, the testing was found to be successful for detecting the RNA in COVID within large populations. According to Representative Sean Maloney (D- NY18), the testing can find a single case of COVID 19 within a population of two million people.
Maloney shared an example of how the testing has been used on college campuses and how if utilized in other targeted populations can greatly reduce the spread by identifying asymptomatic individuals who would likely go untested.
“If you were testing the wastewater, you would know immediately when somebody who has this genetic material and is shedding it is in the population. You could do that for the City of Newburgh. You could do that for a nursing home. You could do that for a meatpacking plant. You could do that for a college dormitory and in fact, this has been done and it has been done successfully,” said Maloney.
He likened the testing to a tsunami warning system.
“Instead of waiting to see the tsunami come onshore, you know hours ahead of time because there’s a buoy out in the ocean that tells you it’s coming. That gives you the time to evacuate and save lives. It’s exactly the same thing,” said Maloney. “If we had days, or weeks, of notification on things like nursing homes, or meat packing plants, or prisons, or a whole community we will save lives,” he said.
The entire pilot program cost $500,000 to implement across Newburgh, Albany, Onondaga County and Buffalo. The funding came from the state; however, now that the pilot is over, federal funding would be required. This funding could come from the Hero’s Act, or another form of federal stimulus, should a compromise be made. There is also the fact of deadlines being as far out as December, when a second wave of COVID is expected to reach the state and nation.
Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey, along with his state and federal colleagues, asked the feds to not treat something like COVID prevention funding as a political issue.
“This is, again, not about partisan politics. This is about human lives, human lives that we’ve lost,” said Harvey. “We’ve lost over 200,000 people to this virus, here in the United States of America and we’re in our second round of this Coronavirus and we’re seeing the test positives tick up and we’re starting to see that there’s another situation here in the fall of 2020,” he said.
During the pilot program, COVID 19 positive results were found from the wastewater testing; however, officials said the numbers are very low in Newburgh and the rest of the Hudson Valley.