PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Contact tracing may seem like a thing of the past, but Oregon State University is still tracking the community spread — as they’ve been doing for nearly two years.

OSU eliminated its community testing program due to how widely available tests have become. 

However, wastewater testing is a program they’ve kept and it’s serving communities that may be traditionally overlooked. The program is in 40 Oregon communities of 5,000 or less. 

This is in partnership with the Oregon Health Authority and takes place twice weekly. They also do testing on all OSU campuses. 

KOIN 6 spoke with Steve Clark, vice president of the university, and he says wastewater tells a whole community about their health in communities that may not get the attention metropolitan areas may. 

“We took the science of Oregon State and put it to work in the moment and that enables public health providers to respond and community members to be informed –and informed how they lead their lives,” Clark said.

The trace program began in the spring of 2020 and was one of the first of its kind in the nation going door to door testing people for COVID in Corvallis, Bend, Eugene and elsewhere.

Corvallis has more than 24,000 students and more than 5,900 employees. This helps guide them on how to adjust public health and cater to wellness. 

“To be vaccinated, to get boosted, to wear face coverings, to limit their social engagement in very protective ways so as to enhance their own health and their community members’ health,” Clark said.

KOIN 6 reached out to both the CDC and the Oregon Health Department to find out what has happened to the people tasked with contact tracing COVID and never heard back. According to the website, the program is still very much in place.