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Study objective: To garner a framework for combining community wastewater surveillance with state clinical surveillance that influence confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 variants within the community, and recommend how the flow of such research evidence could be expanded and employed for public health response. Design, setting, and participants: This work involved analyzing wastewater samples collected weekly from 17 geographically resolved locations in Louisville/Jefferson County, Kentucky from February 10 to November 29, 2021. Genomic surveillance and RT-qPCR platforms were used as screening to identify SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater, and state clinical surveillance was used for confirmation. Main results: The results demonstrate increased epidemiological value of combining community wastewater genomic surveillance and RT-qPCR with conventional case auditing methods. The spatial scale and temporal frequency of wastewater sampling provides promising sensitivity and specificity to be useful to gain public health screening insights about community emergence, seeding, and spread. Conclusions: Better national surveillance systems are needed for future pathogens and variants, and wastewater-based genomic surveillance represents opportune coupling. This paper presents current evidence that complementary wastewater and clinical testing is enhanced cost-effectively when linked; making a strong case for a joint public health framework. The findings suggest significant potential for rapid progress to be made in extending this work to consider pathogens of interest as a whole within wastewater, which could be examined in either a targeted fashion as we currently do with SARS-CoV-2 or in terms of a global monitoring of all pathogens found, and developing evidence based public health practice to best support community health.


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