The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), held a webinar on June 24, 2020 addressing concerns regarding the current COVID-19 pandemic, and how local health departments (LHDs) can ensure safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) to protect human health.
Research has shown that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can be found in the feces of some patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Although currently, there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through drinking water or sewage, this highlights the continued need for effective WASH practices to maintain hygienic conditions and water quality to protect public health throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the ‘WASH during COVID-19’ webinar, the following topics were discussed:
- General COVID-19 information, including proper cleaning and disinfection procedures. The CDC shared the most up-to-date information regarding the novel illness, how to correctly protect yourself and others, and how to clean and disinfect your home. Properly ending home isolation, as well as the do’s and don’ts of face coverings were discussed by the presenters. Learn more through NACCHO’s FAQ
- Sewage surveillance for COVID-19. As efforts to establish a sewage surveillance program have been increasing, so have public misconceptions regarding the potential for transmission via wastewater. The webinar panelists reviewed the technique for testing for the virus within sewage, and why detecting the virus in sewage samples does not mean the detected virus is infectious in nature. Methods that can detect SARS-CoV-2 in sewage are able to identify fragments of the virus, while the entire virus must be intact to be infectious. Learn more through NACCHO’s FAQ
- How to minimize risk of Legionella before reopening. Buildings that have been left unoccupied for long periods of time containing stagnant water could become sources of the Legionella bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, an illness that often requires hospitalization and can be fatal. The U.S. has already had several cases of the disease, including in a high school in Ohio, a nursing home in Michigan, and a county in Michigan that is ongoing investigation. This webinar shared how buildings and businesses can follow eight steps to reopen properly and reduce risk of Legionella using eight steps. Learn more through NACCHO’s FAQ
- Considerations for disaster shelters during the pandemic. Unfortunately, natural disasters do not stop for a pandemic; in fact, this year’s hurricane season is expected to be more active than average. This presentation discussed options for sheltering safely during a disaster while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 infection. With hotels and dormitories being the preferred option, campgrounds and congregate shelters can also be utilized, with each setting facing different challenges. Learn more through NACCHO’s FAQ
This webinar ended with highlighting the necessity of WASH efforts at local health departments to ensure safe conditions and distribute information to inform communities and avoid public misinformation. The recording of the webinar, along with the slide deck and a summary of the questions asked and answered can be found on NACCHO’s webpage. Relevant resources pertaining to COVID-19 and WASH practices provided by the CDC can be found here:
- Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection
- Business and Workplaces
- COVID-19 and Water: Frequently Asked Questions
- Interim Guidance for Hurricane Shelters during COVID-19 Pandemic
To learn more about NACCHO’s efforts around WASH preparedness, email WASH@naccho.org.
For health departments that have questions about CDC’s sewage surveillance efforts, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.