Researchers detected SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the water of four Lake Superior beaches in Duluth earlier this month.
A “detectable level” of the virus was found in water samples at area beaches over the weekends of September 11 and 18 at several beaches, including 13th Street Beach / Franklin Park, Leif Erikson Park, 42nd Avenue Beach and Brighton Beach, according to the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus, which regularly tests lake water at eight area beaches.
The results showed levels of the virus 100 to 1,000 copies per liter, 10,000 times lower than the levels found in wastewater, the medical school said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “is not aware of any scientific reports indicating that the virus can spread to people through exposure to lake water,”
“Right now, the source or sources of the virus are unknown. For this reason, the Minnesota Sea Grant will extend financial support to continue monitoring the Duluth Eight Beach School of Medicine,” the medical school said in a statement to the News Tribune. “They will also work with experts in lake currents and the Minnesota Department of Health to seek more information on possible sources.”
The medical school urged bathers to continue wearing masks and social distancing.
As reported by the News Tribune last month, researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Duluth campus are regularly testing the water on beaches for the virus on weekends. Since the virus is spread in a person’s stool, it is likely to be flushed out of a swimmer’s body.
The researchers – assistant professors Richard Melvin and Glenn Simmons Jr. – are also studying the presence of the virus in Minnesota raw sewage with the hope of determining how many people in a community might have the disease based on the amount of virus in a sample. .
Wastewater research has given them the first signs of outbreaks and has reflected rising case levels across the state.
Samples are also taken of the wastewater that comes out of the dormitories in the twin cities of the University of Minnesota and on the Duluth campuses.