Representative TJ Cox Urges CDC to Prioritize Wastewater Surveillance Testing to Stem the Spread of COVID-19

November 6, 2020
Press Release

Yesterday, Rep. TJ Cox (CA-21) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) led a letter to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) following up on a previous request for information regarding a nationwide COVID-19 wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) surveillance program.  

New coronavirus cases are hitting record highs in states across the U.S. WBE is an innovative yet currently under-utilized solution for surveillance testing that can help identify and track outbreaks of COVID-19 by collecting and testing wastewater samples from sewers. 

“Getting past the Covid-19 pandemic should be our number one priority, and wastewater-based epidemiology is a cost-efficient way to help us do that. I reached out to the CDC to ask what they needed from Congress to get this form of testing implemented nationwide, but their response left much to be desired. So today I am following up on my original letter to urge the CDC to let us know as soon as possible how Congress can help them get a wastewater surveillance system up and running to help us beat the pandemic," said Rep. Cox. "I will continue to use my position in Congress to apply pressure on the CDC because they have the power to support states and localities in tracking this deadly disease."

“Wastewater surveillance has the ability to stop the spread of the coronavirus in communities across the country and save countless lives. This tool has already been used to predict the number of coronavirus cases and has accurately predicted a surge in hospitalizations 3 to 5 days out. In Connecticut, Yale University in my hometown of New Haven and at the University of Connecticut, scientists are leading the way in wastewater surveillance and proving that this technology should be implemented nationwide. Without information on the federal support needed to scale-up wastewater-based epidemiology, CDC is delaying the expansion of a critical tool that could help our country get a handle on the pandemic," said Rep. DeLauro.

In the letter, Rep. Cox and Rep. DeLauro, Chairwoman of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, shared the following concerns about federal plans to develop a national WBE strategy for COVID-19 that were not answered in the previous letter; 

  • The need for a professional budget estimate of necessary funding for a WBE strategy, 
  • Consideration of developing guidelines for the many stakeholders interested in WBE, 
  • Prioritization of the need for pilot programs in rural, minority and underserved areas of the country, and 
  • The need for funding to go to local entities and small businesses to conduct wastewater testing.

In the letter, the Members wrote:

“In order to help you implement a cost-effective solution to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, we ask that you provide a response no later than November 13, 2020 to the following question from our September 16 letter, which was not adequately addressed in your previous response: What is the CDC’s professional judgment budget estimate for necessary funding to successfully carry out this effort? We request this professional judgment budget include a breakdown of travel and overhead costs, including the purchase of digital droplet PCR technology for all States and Territories.” 

Read the full letter here

Read the first letter here

Read the CDC’s response here