With many college students returning to campus, some institutions are turning to an unconventional way to track COVID-19 outbreaks: monitoring sewage. One researcher involved in an effort to make these wastewater tests useful public health information explains how it works.

Also in this week’s science and research news: the promise and hurdles of rapid COVID-19 tests, baby sea turtles are ingesting large amounts of plastic and the latest research on fast-intensifying hurricanes.

Martin La Monica

Deputy Editor

Germs flushed down the drain can be detected at water treatment plants. Derek Davis/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

COVID-19 clues in a community’s sewage: 4 questions answered about watching wastewater for coronavirus

Kyle Bibby, University of Notre Dame

Sewage surveillance is one technique that can alert authorities to the presence of a pathogen in the community. An environmental engineer explains the state of the science when it comes to SARS-CoV-2.

Easy, fast coronavirus testing is critical to controlling the virus. AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Will the new 15-minute COVID-19 test solve US testing problems?

Zoë McLaren, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

The new BinaxNOW antigen test is quick, easy, accurate and cheap. It could solve the US testing problem, but the emergency use authorization only allows people with COVID-19 symptoms to get tested.

Hurricane Laura intensified quickly over the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall on Aug. 27, 2020. CSU/CIRA and NOAA/NESDIS

Hurricane Laura was the latest storm to strengthen fast, but is rapid intensification really becoming more common?

Chris Slocum, Colorado State University

Laura went from a tropical storm to a major hurricane in less than 24 hours, sending coastal residents scrambling to prepare. Hurricanes Harvey and Michael exploded in strength in similar ways.

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