In the SARS-CoV-2 Detection in the Urban Environment Project we are collecting samples from surfaces around San Diego to test for traces of the virus and investigate if it is possible to contract the virus from public spaces.
*A Google account (e.g., Gmail or G Suite) is required to participate (Gmail Account Signup) with a secure, convenient way to access the Sample Collection portal without having to create an account for our website. We respect your privacy! We do not store your login credentials and we never have access to your password.
Before the first case was reported in San Diego, lab members gathered around a white board (remember when we could do that!) and brainstormed about how environmental virologists might contribute to the scientific response to CoVID-19. The obvious answer was to identify potential reservoirs of the SARS2 virus. There was no way that only one lab could look at the whole city, so couple of phone calls to Rob Knight and Kim Prather at UCSD informally divided the city into air & water (Prather lab), human-associated (fecal, swabs, hospitals), and fomite surfaces (Rohwer).
The next challenges were how to gather 1,000s of surface samples amidst stay-at-home orders and the general disruption of the CoVID-19 pandemic. Citizen Scientists amongst the community seemed the best approach. Sampling kits were quickly devised, protocols tested, and a herculean effort by Big Rose (Middleton, WI) got a LIMS and sample submission website working. At the same time, a very tired graduate student name Maria-Isabel Rojas optimized a protocol for detecting as few as 10 SARS2 viruses per sample.
The San Diego Citizen Scientists has now created the largest repository of surfaces samples in the world. Thousands of these samples have been screened for SARS2 and other viruses. Thank you to everyone that made this possible.