Nipissing First Nation has confirmed COVID-19 has been detected in wastewater samples.
According to a community notice issued Saturday, fecal matter with COVID-19 was shed into the system by at least one or two people from residential units or Nipissing First Nation buildings connected to the Garden Village wastewater treatment plant.
The notice stresses that the presence of COVID-19 is not a laboratory-confirmed case, nor does it confirm individuals in the community are infectious. The samples also include virus that is potentially broken apart and the waste matter has not been confirmed to be infectious.
Mass testing of the community is not warranted, the notice stated, as there are no known confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nipissing First Nation at this time.
Last week, Nipissing First Nation advised the community that COVID-19 testing would take place at its wastewater treatment plants in Garden Village and Duchesnay.
Samples were collected from the Garden Village plant on Jan. 18 at 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. No sampling has been conducted in Duchesnay.
“We are testing our sewage collection system where anyone connected to our system can contribute, including those who may not even know they are infected,” according to the community notice.
“We will be taking a total of four samples a week – two from each community per week. As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, additional means of testing for COVID-19 in the community can help determine our best collective response.”
The analysis is being done in partnership with the University of Ottawa and Ontario First Nations Technical Services.
Samples were analyzed at the University of Ottawa and each sample was tested three times.
“This free, weekly testing service provides an early indicator to identify and track if COVID-19 is present in the community, possibly days sooner than other methods, especially for asymptomatic individuals,” the notice stated.
The risk for wastewater treatment operators is low, Nipissing First Nation says, while full personal protective equipment protocols have been in place for more than 10 months to minimize exposure to COVID-19.
Nipissing First Nation said the limitations of weekly testing mean daily positive test numbers are only partial views of COVID-19 activity in the community. However, the benefit is it may identify asymptomatic cases and provide early warnings.
Nipissing First Nation is advising residents who are concerned they may have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to get tested at an assessment centre.
Community members are asked to continue following all public health measures, including maintaining a physical distance from anyone who doesn’t live within your home, practising good hand hygiene, wearing a face covering and following the stay-at-home order.
The next sampling was scheduled for Monday and the results will determine if the presence or amount of COVID-19 is increasing or decreasing.