pix Skip to main content


How Wastewater Testing Helps Protect Communities from New COVID-19 Variants

COVID-19 variants, like XBB

The COVID public health emergency officially ended May 11, 2023, but the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to change, adapt and evolve, bringing additional challenges. If you’re a community leader, you might wonder how best to protect your community from infectious disease spread — and especially when COVID, RSV and flu cases are expected to spike each fall and winter as people spend more time indoors.

New COVID variants, like XBB, are regularly emerging, and case-monitoring data from state and local public health departments isn’t as timely and actionable as it once was. Since the federal Department of Health and Human Services no longer requires labs to report COVID testing data, local communities must rely on hospital admission numbers to identify concerning trends.

Reversing the Data Deficit

A data deficit leaves community leaders operating in the dark. Making critical decisions as a reaction to an active, uncontrolled trend is particularly frustrating when you know you could get ahead of an outbreak if you had data to support proactive measures.

Fortunately, wastewater surveillance testing offers a simple solution for protecting communities from new COVID variants. Data from wastewater testing are imminently actionable, and the collection process is surprisingly simple.

Some COVID-19 variants may spread faster, cause more severe illness and resist existing treatment.

What To Know About Infectious Disease Variants

Before implementing a wastewater testing plan in your community, it’s important to be clear about why COVID variants matter.

Mutations allow viruses like SARS-CoV-2 to constantly change and evolve. Specific mutations lead to variant strains or lineages of the virus that may have highly undesirable characteristics.

For example, some variants may:

  • Spread faster
  • Cause more severe illness
  • Resist existing treatment

The XBB variant, for example, captured researchers’ attention when it was first identified in early 2023 because it demonstrated an ability to dodge immunity and generated lineages that were more transmissible than previous versions of the virus.

The characteristics of the new variant were cause for great concern because they complicated the already difficult task of keeping communities safe. Since mutation and variation are a natural part of how viruses work, we can expect that new variants will continue to emerge and spread in perpetuity.

It’s crucial to pay attention to new variants, the speed at which they generate and how they differ from the original virus. even though other types of clinical tracking data are drying up, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) actively uses viral genomic surveillance to identify and track COVID-19 variants.

By combining the general variant information from CDC with community-specific data from targeted methods such as wastewater surveillance testing, community leaders can feel confident in taking swift action to protect their communities — for example, monitoring vulnerable populations and providing additional support to the healthcare providers in the community.

Wastewater surveillance can provide an early warning of COVID-19’s spread in communities.
– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Wastewater Surveillance Testing’s Role in Public Health

Wastewater testing can be a game-changer in monitoring infectious diseases by acting as an early warning system. That’s because people infected with SARS-CoV-2 and its variants shed the through excretion, even when asymptomatic — making wastewater an invaluable tool for detecting the virus’ presence in a community. In fact, variants like XBB can be detected in wastewater up to 1-2 weeks earlier than clinical data.

Early detection allows for the proactive management of outbreaks. This includes alerting the healthcare systems to the potential for a spike in cases that would otherwise overwhelm the hospitals and doctors’ offices. During the pandemic, we learned that the more informed our healthcare system became, the better it was able to handle the volume of citizens seeking treatment.

Wastewater surveillance provides an early warning system that allows community leaders, healthcare systems and providers to prepare for an increase in illness in the community and take steps to minimize its impact.

Wastewater case studies and white papers

Download Shield T3’s white papers, “Wastewater-Based Epidemiology (K-12 and Municipality Pilot Study)” and “Sentinel Surveillance Strategies for Congregate Settings (University Campus),” to learn more about the wastewater testing solutions we implement for our clients.

What To Expect From a Shield T3 Partnership

Any community can benefit from early detection via wastewater surveillance testing. And when you partner with Shield T3, the process is surprisingly simple whether your community is a university campus, company building, small town or large city.

Shield T3’s process involves an initial assessment to determine the best location for sampling, training your team on the sample collection and preparing the samples for transport. Importantly, test results are provided within 24 hours from receipt at our laboratory on an easy-to-read dashboard, enabling prompt action by community leaders

Here are the six steps we’ll follow when you engage Shield T3 for wastewater surveillance testing.

  • Step 1. Initial Assessment – A Shield T3 expert speaks with you by phone about your site or travels to your location to evaluate your needs. We look at plumbing diagrams and other infrastructure components to determine the best places to capture wastewater samples that fully represent most of the population in your community.
  • Step 2. Device Installation – We install Shield T3’s proprietary sampling technology at the strategic location(s) identified during the initial assessment.
  • Step 3. Team Training – Training your team on ST3’s processes is made easy through online training as modules explain every detail — from sample collection best practices to processing the sample for shipping and reinstalling the sample collection device.
  • Step 4. Sample Collection – Once the sampling equipment is in place, your staff will collect the sample, enter it into the system, prepare it for shipping, and send it to our testing facility with an ice pack in a prepaid shipper. Your staff then loads new sample collection media and re-deploys the sample collection device.
  • Step 5. Testing and Results – It’s easy to track your sample once it’s scanned into our system. Shield T3’s testing is conducted in a state-of-the-art, federally regulated facility. Results are available within 24 hours of the sample receipt and displayed on an intuitive dashboard. And you get access to ShieldT3’s “playbook” to guide your decision-making as you review the data and insights provided in the dashboard to Implement actionable mitigation techniques
  • Step 6. Repeat Steps 4 and 5 – After the initial assessment and setup, your community’s wastewater testing program becomes a simple process of periodically collecting samples and sending them in for testing. In other words, you’ll repeat steps 4 and 5 over time on a customized schedule that suits your needs.

Once your staff is routinely collecting samples and sending them in for testing, you’ll have ongoing access to specific data from your community to help you take action to keep your community safe.

Ready to Start Protecting Your Community?

There’s no need for you or your community to be caught off guard by new COVID variants and other infectious diseases. When you partner with ShieldT3 to implement a wastewater surveillance testing plan, you’ll have everything you need to stay ahead of the virus.

Schedule a free initial assessment today, and take the first step toward protecting your community by implementing wastewater testing.

California’s Pilot Program Makes Wellness Kiosk Accessibility Essential

wellness kiosk mandate for California state campuses

California’s Assembly Bill 2482, known as the Wellness Vending Machine Pilot Program, is designed to make wellness products more readily available on California college campuses.

The pilot initiative, which runs until July 1, 2029, requires California State University (CSU) and the California Community Colleges (CCCs) to establish at least one vending machine that dispenses wellness products at their five campuses. In addition, the bill requests the University of California (UC) establish at least one vending machine that dispenses wellness products at any number of its campuses.

According to the bill, AB 2482 aims to address accessibility gaps for college students who seek wellness products on campus outside of pharmacy hours and who lack personal or public transportation.

Pilot Program Highlights

AB 2482’s text states vending machines be stocked with tampons, pads, condoms, pregnancy tests, emergency contraception, sunscreen and over-the-counter painkillers.

The bill requires CSU and the CCCs to use at least one of the following communication methods to let students know about the vending machines:

  • Pamphlets
  • Posters
  • Flyers
  • Social Media
  • Creating or updating websites
  • Hosting a grand opening event

On-Campus Wellness Kiosks

shield t3 wellness kiosk

Shield T3 provides wellness kiosks to colleges and universities as an extension of their Student Health Centers. These vending machine-style product dispensers are available for every state across the U.S., including California, to use.

Our wellness kiosks give students 24/7 access to wellness products, including cough/cold, allergy, and sexual health and prevention. Students can use multiple payment options to purchase products.

Shield T3 makes this health and wellness-focused, on-campus solution cost-effective by providing the products and offering restocking and kiosk maintenance services. Learn more here. (PLACEHOLDER for new web page.)

If you’d like specific information about the wellness kiosks, including pricing, email us or complete our contact form, and someone from our team will be in touch.

New Wastewater Testing White Papers Highlight Numerous Benefits of Sentinel Surveillance

wastewater whitepaper

If you’re a local community leader, campus administrator or business owner, the myriad concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic likely have been your central focus since 2020.

You probably never dreamed public health and infectious disease management would dominate your job duties.

Fortunately, wastewater testing offers solutions to help safeguard the health of your community — now and for the future.

Our two new white papers, Wastewater-Based Epidemiology – K-12 and Municipality Pilot Study and Sentinel Surveillance Strategies for Congregate Settings – University Campus, cover the benefits of wastewater sentinel surveillance testing and outlines critical steps for getting started.

Early Warning System for Infectious DiseasesWastewater-Based Epidemiology white paper

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) serves as an early warning system to detect pathogens in wastewater before individuals show symptoms.

While WBE is not a diagnostic tool, it is ideal for detecting infectious viruses and bacteria.

During the COVID-19 global pandemic, WBE proved to be so helpful in tracking SARS-CoV-2 that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) established the National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) to aggregate wastewater data nationally.

NWSS represents a positive step forward for national public health. And even more can be done locally.

Power of Sentinel Surveillance

Sentinel surveillance testing is a WBE method that focuses on strategically selected locations within a targeted community, like a university campus, to provide targeted information on disease prevalence.

This approach helps identify areas with higher transmission rates and allows for rapid response and tailored interventions.

Implementing wastewater sentinel surveillance testing can help prevent widespread outbreaks, protect vulnerable populations and reduce strain on healthcare systems.

Detecting pathogens and disease prevalence early will help allocate resources and implement interventions more effectively.

Wastewater sentinel surveillance testing is a game changer for schools, communities and businesses. By establishing a locally focused testing system, educational institutions and others can complement the aggregated national data collected by the NWSS and take proactive measures to protect public health.

Sentinel Surveillance in Actionwastewater testing at a unviersity

With a local wastewater surveillance system in place, you get timely access to information on pathogen detection and disease prevalence that will enable you, along with local public health officials and community leaders, to take rapid action.

For example, the Shield T3 sample collection and advanced data analytics system can detect respiratory viruses like influenza, RSV, and SARS-CoV-2 in less than 24 hours.

Fast access to data empowers you to make decisions that ultimately improve community health and well-being. This can be especially valuable in underserved communities or those with low-resource waste systems.

Moreover, the data collected can contribute to the larger national surveillance system, enhancing the overall understanding of disease trends and informing national public health strategies.

Synopses of Wastewater White Papers

Here’s more information about our white papers published this year with links to each publication.

Here’s more information about our white papers published this year.

    • Wastewater-Based Epidemiology – K-12 and Municipality Pilot Study showcases the results of a study on wastewater testing conducted by ShieldT3 and CIC Health in collaboration with the Revere Department of Public Health and Revere Public Schools in Suffolk County, MA, in 2022.
      • The pilot study demonstrated school and municipal settings could provide sufficient wastewater data for an effective surveillance program, enabling communities to identify and track pathogens before they pose a widespread risk.
      • The paper highlights the critical importance of localized wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) surveillance, particularly within vulnerable populations. It also emphasizes the need for collaboration among health and safety officials, utilities, labs, and researchers to establish a sustainable wastewater surveillance program that provides early warning systems, broad population coverage, and valuable public health trends to inform targeted interventions.
    • Sentinel Surveillance Strategies for Congregate Settings – University Campus outlines a comprehensive playbook for implementing wastewater sentinel surveillance testing on university campuses.
      • Developed by ShieldT3 in partnership with the University of Arizona, the “playbook” guides campuses through the process of integrating wastewater surveillance with proven risk-mitigation strategies to enhance public health and safety.
      • The whitepaper details the necessary steps, from assembling a dedicated team and selecting appropriate sentinel sites, to establishing relevant partnerships, developing a testing protocol, monitoring, analyzing, and interpreting data, as well as communicating, evaluating and adapting as needed.
      • The goal is to provide campuses with a data-driven approach to inform proactive decisions and timely interventions in case of disease outbreaks.
      • The playbook emphasizes the flexibility and adaptability of wastewater testing, allowing campuses to adjust their surveillance according to emerging health threats or seasonal concerns, ultimately fostering a healthier and safer campus environment.

Shield T3's wastewater testing solutions help universities and other congregate settings, as well as communities and municipalities.

Shield T3’s wastewater testing solutions work for schools and other congregate settings, such as municipalities.

Your Wastewater Surveillance Partner

Setting up a wastewater surveillance system involves assembling a dedicated team, selecting appropriate sentinel sites, establishing relevant partnerships, developing a testing protocol, monitoring, analyzing and interpreting data, communicating, evaluating and adapting.

It’s a multiple-step process that can be complex. That’s why ShieldT3 offers support so these steps become easily achievable and can be customized to your community’s specific needs.

We equip communities, campuses and businesses for wastewater surveillance testing by offering sample collection and advanced data analytics, along with customized systems for all population sizes.

Request a Free Needs Assessment

We’re here to help you mitigate the spread of infectious diseases with our wastewater testing solutions.

To get started, request a free needs assessment or explore our white papers, covering the key aspects of applied wastewater surveillance and guidance on implementing a successful, local wastewater surveillance testing program.

Shield T3’s research material offers valuable insights for implementing sentinel surveillance testing. By understanding the benefits of wastewater sentinel surveillance testing and learning from real-world examples, you’re better equipped to make informed decisions that can enhance the health and safety of your community.

If you’re looking to make public health and infectious disease control both practical and proactive, you’ll find a sample university campus health and wellness “playbook” in the Sentinel Surveillance Strategies white paper to inform the plan you set up.

About ShieldT3

Shield T3 wastewater testing solutionsShield T3 owns and operates a laboratory network that provides viral extraction and amplification analysis. We use state-of-the-art protocols and quality control processes at the laboratories that can detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations in agreement with CDC wastewater testing guidelines.

Our systems are designed for a variety of congregate settings — from university dormitories to school campuses to individual businesses and communities to entire cities.

How Can Shield T3 Help You?

If you have questions or want to set up a call with us to discuss your school’s or community’s needs, email us or complete our contact form. We look forward to talking with you.