Exact Scientific reports on its four months so far for Lynden

LYNDEN ­— Kent Oostra reported Monday that his Exact Scientific Services company’s monitoring of sewage as an early warning system on COVID-19 in Lynden has produced “great results” so far.

Oostra spoke of a consistent “correlation” between what his laboratory testing of sewage samples shows and what turns up as a COVID spike some 10 to 14 days later.

He said the pattern of correlation has happened several times now in the four months since the testing was begun in Lynden in June. What the Ferndale company detects shows up ahead of spikes in COVID cases that the county Health Department then later documents.

What is because the human body immediately sheds the virus that may not show up as symptoms in a person until as many as 14 days later, Oostra said.

The Health Department breaks down the county’s COVID cases by school districts.

It happens that Exact is tracking, beyond city sewage generally, at the Lynden Christian Schools system — or at least at its middle and high schools — all of which has been in-person with students and staff since Sept. 1. A positive was recently detected at LCS after weeks of being entirely clean.

Oostra said he views that discovery as “probably more a community thing than a school thing,” as COVID is in the community and a positive hit was likely to come. 

Oostra said his advice is not to shut down all activity immediately, but to “just evaluate what you’re doing” and perhaps make changes, such as reducing a group of 10 down to five.

He said he doesn’t like to use the work “prevent” because that’s not possible right now, but it is possible to “mitigate” with the mentality of “what can we do to limit exposure?”

Since Lynden committed in June to spending $20,000 with Exact to get the sewage testing started, Whatcom County has been willing to help foot the bill and other cities have become interested in the early-warning mechanism.

Exactly what can be done with the earlier knowledge is less clean.

Lynden Christian Superintendent Paul Bootsma said Tuesday that the school system would continue to be diligent in following health guidelines and use the sewage testing results as “one of many pieces of information to make decisions for our student safety and health.”

He noted that after-school sports practices were cancelled for a few days, but were expected to start up again this week. “We have communicated all of this with families,” Bootsma said, and more clarification may be forthcoming this week.

  •    South 16th Street citizen Tim DenBleyker spoke remotely to the City Council — as meetings continue to be —  of finding out he is in violation of a city code when he parks a vehicle in his driveway.

That is because his garage is located far enough forward that a car parked in front of it overlaps the sidewalk.

The garage has been there 74 years and the applicable city law is 47 years old. DenBleyker wondered if a grandfather clause, or allowance of some kind, can be made as for downtown businesses in the ordinance, or left up to the judgment of police whether this is a public hazard.

City Administrator Mike Martin confirmed the situation had come to the city’s attention via a citizen complaint.

It will be taken up by at least one City Council committee. “We’ll take it on,” said councilor Gary Bode.

The city extended for two years its agreement with Whatcom County Parks and Recreation to run the Lynden Senior/Community Center collaboratively. 

The county will pay in $61,874 for center staffing for each of 2021 and 2022 while Lynden will continue to provide varied support of the city-owned facility at 401 Grover St.