The Centre County COVID-19 Data4Action Research Project phase three has wrapped up data collection for students and community participants. The retention rate was over 90 percent from the previous waves. Additionally, wastewater sampling for coronavirus on campus and in the surrounding community is ongoing. Our researchers would like to thank the participants for continuing in the study and encourage further participation, even if they have received their vaccination for COVID-19.
The third wave of biological testing will allow researchers to document changes to exposure of the virus over time. Results from the third wave of student testing indicate that between 55 and 60% of students tested through April were positive to COVID-19 antibodies. Contact with known COVID-19 positive individuals and attendance at small gatherings were significant predictors of detecting antibodies among the student group.
Conversely, results through the third wave of testing of community participants indicate approximately 8% tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. The influx of students into college and university towns reflects a significant increase in population size and density that could result in increases in COVID-19 risk in surrounding communities. Despite the potential risk, it is possible that disease transmission may lag behind in surrounding communities, implying there is potential to minimize risk with targeted interventions.
Additionally, wastewater sampling for coronavirus on campus and in the surrounding community is ongoing. Research has shown that people infected with SARS-CoV-2 shed the virus in their feces. As a result, sampling wastewater for the virus has the potential to give an overall snapshot of its prevalence in the community, as well as identify general locations where the virus is present. According to D4A's Andrew Read, director of the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, most recent virus concentrations in waste water on campus and in the downtown catchment have been below the limit of detection. "In the University Area Joint Authority Borough as a whole, we can still detect virus, but only just: it’s right at our limit of detection. These numbers are the lowest we’ve had since we started sampling in July. That’s great news. Long may it stay this way.”