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Poop Tests in Sewage Might Predict Coronavirus Surge

Scientists across the nation are examining Southern California’s poop — maybe even yours — with the hope of more quickly identifying COVID-19 hotspots and better preparing for future surges. The information could also signal when stay-at-home orders can be safely eased in specific communities.

Untreated sewage has been used for years to track viruses as well as to analyze opioid use by neighborhood. Now the race is on to determine whether it can serve as an early warning system for the new coronavirus, particularly since the small fraction of the population receiving swab tests cannot capture the breadth of asymptomatic infections.

“Testing of every individual is very difficult. But if you have 50,000 people in a community, you may be able to determine the prevalence by testing the wastewater,” said Sunny Jiang, a microbiologist leading a pilot project at UC Irvine to identify COVID-19 in sewage systems.

Well-Known Salton Sea Origin Story Questioned by New Research

The origin of California’s largest lake is a well-known tale. In an attempt to turn the desert into lush farmland more than a century ago, humans tried — and temporarily but dramatically failed  — to exert control over nature.

“The Salton Sea in south California was created in 1905 when spring flooding on the Colorado River breached a canal,” NASA’s website spells out. For 18 months, the most important river in the West flowed along what appeared to be a novel course through the Salton Basin, which lies 227 feet below sea level.

Being born from an engineering miscalculation on the part of the California Development Company means the Salton Sea has been written off as an “accident” in histories inked on many pages, ranging from The Washington Post to the Daily Mail.

But that framing is too simplistic, new research suggests, arguing that the sea’s formation was inevitable, regardless of the famous canal breach in 1905.