Sewage tests positive for coronavirus

Science is inexact
Thu, 07/16/2020 - 8:00pm
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Regular testing conducted by the Sewer Company for the presence of the coronavirus produced a positive result from a sample taken on July 5, according to a memo sent to the Block Island Town Council. The council and Interim Manager Jim Kern stressed that the science behind the testing was not yet exact.

Second Warden André Boudreau addressed the memo at the council’s meeting on Wednesday, July 15.

“We got a memo from the Sewer Department — they test for COVID in the sewer,” said Boudreau. He asked for Town Manager Jim Kern to “explain the document — a test was taken on July 5, and COVID was detected in the wastewater stream.”

“The email, which is the latest on a series of tests that the Sewer Commission has been doing at regular periods — testing in the sewer system for presence of the virus. This is the first one they got back that came up positive,” said Kern. “People can probably appreciate the science associated with trying to analyze the volume of infection in the sewer in the waste stream, and the science of trying to estimate what that represents in terms of the number of people that are positive.”

Kern said the results are not precise at this point, but said the results indicated “that the number that they associated with the positive reading was 10” people, said Kern.

The council took no action on the memo.

Update from Dr. Warcup

Block Island Medical Director Dr. Tom Warcup provided the council with an update of COVID-19 in Rhode Island.

“Rhode Island has had an increase in their hospitalizations. Our seven-day average now is about 55 people, which is our highest point since June 19, and Saturday [July 11] represented 78 total admissions, which was our highest single day since June 12. Our continued vigilance is great,” said Warcup. “We are doing much better than 31 other states, who have had a real surge in their hospitalizations.”

Warcup presented some data to the council.

“If I could give some data, that could help our [Community Service Officers] or how we want to plan on who we target to talk with. Right now, there’s about a two percent positive rate amongst people that are being tested. But for the 20- to 30-yearold age group, it’s greater than seven percent. This particular group is also a group that’s starting to have a surge in their COVID related cases, but that population is not taking the governor’s regulations seriously.”

Warcup suggested to the council that testing that age demographic would perhaps give the island a better handle on the presence of the virus on the island.

“That helps keep us a little bit targeted,” said Warcup.

Support for the Broadband initiative

Councilor Sven Risom read to the council a resolution, written by Risom, Councilor Martha Ball and Town Finance Director Amy Land, in support of the island wide Broadband Network. The project will go before voters as a bond issue at the annual Financial Town Meeting on Monday, July 27.

“The New Shoreham Town Council supports the island wide Broadband Network,” said Risom. “My goal is moving this resolution forward to be clear of the Town Council’s support…before the votes at the Financial Town Meeting.”

“This is the best scenario for the island and they have done a lot of work to get us to this point… I want to acknowledge the work that was done. I would hope for everyone to vote and approve the warrant in a couple weeks,” said Councilor Chris Willi.

Willi made a motion to approve the resolution as presented, with the council agreeing in a unanimous decision.

“Very promising for broadband in the future… we very much need it,” added First Warden Ken Lacoste.

Location and time approved for Financial Town Meeting

Lacoste made a motion to approve the warrant for the FTM, to approve the Block Island School gymnasium as the location, and the date as Monday, July 27 at 7 p.m. The council approved the motion in a unanimous decision.