Cleveland entering partnership to test wastewater samples, determine in which areas COVID-19 is spreading

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — City health officials said that as of Monday, almost 58,000 residents were fully vaccinated, reflecting roughly 40 percent of the community.

As a way to ramp up vaccination efforts in areas where residents might not be getting vaccinated, the city is partnering with Case Western University and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to find out where to focus on through wastewater testing.

According to the city’s Chief of Prevention, Intervention and Opportunity for Youth and Young Adults, Tracy Martin-Thompson, there are a number of new COVID-19 cases, and positive cases and hospitalizations remain highest in parts of the city that are heavily populated by African American residents.

She said that likely means those in those pockets of the community aren’t getting tested until they are symptomatic or hospitalized.

Martin-Thompson said Case will collect wastewater from those areas of the city where increasing transmissions are suspected.

Those water samples will be tested to show where the virus is spreading as a way to determine where officials need to focus vaccination efforts.

She said the initiative will kick off in the next week, and results will come back within one to two weeks.

The Cleveland Department of Public Health is also shifting its focus to holding vaccine clinics in smaller settings due to the decline in demand. “I think that one of the biggest things that we’re seeing especially when it comes to the individuals that are vaccine hesitate is that it requires a lot more face-to-face engagement to really pull them in,” said Martin-Thompson.

The council also discussed the possibility of offering financial or other incentives to encourage people to get the shot. “We want to be cautious of that. We don’t want it to seem as if a condition of that receiving the vaccine or the gift that you have to get the vaccine. So we’re continuing to look at that to see what ways we can use incentives to leverage administering the vaccine,” said Brian Kimball, with the Cleveland Department of Public Health.

There have been 1,083,609 total confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in the state since the pandemic began, along with a total of 19,428 deaths.

About 1,034,944 people are presumed to have recovered from the illness in the state.

The number of people vaccinated in the state so far is 4,834,135 or about 41.36% of the population. That number includes people who have gotten one or two shots so far.

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