SANTA FE – A wastewater monitoring program launched last month has helped to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak at a juvenile justice facility in southern New Mexico, according to state officials.
The New Mexico Environment Department said the virus was detected in wastewater samples taken from the state-run facility in Las Cruces in late December.
After testing more than 100 people, they were able to determine that an asymptomatic positive individual was working in the facility. That person was instructed to isolate, and subsequent wastewater samples did not detect the virus, indicating an outbreak was prevented among the young people and staff at the facility.
Sixteen federal, state and local correctional facilities are enrolled in the program. Twice a week, the Environment Department collects sewage samples at the facilities and analyzes them for COVID-19 gene markers.
The Environment Department is posting the sampling data on its website.
Officials say they plan to expand the effort as funding allows.