Wastewater surveillance has been a tool for public health officials throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Universities established pandemic response committees to facilitate safe learning for students, faculty, and staff. These committees met to analyze both wastewater and clinical data to propose mitigation strategies to limit the spread of COVID-19. This paper reviews the initial efforts of utilizing campus data inclusive of wastewater surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations, clinical case data from university response teams, and mitigation strategies from Grand Valley State University in West Michigan (population 21,648 students) and Oakland University in East Michigan (population 18,552 students) from November 2020 to April 2022. Wastewater positivity rates for both universities ranged from 32.8 to 46.8%. Peak viral signals for both universities directly corresponded to variant points of entry within the campus populations from 2021 to 2022. It was found that the organization of clinical case data and variability of wastewater testing data were large barriers for both universities to effectively understand disease dynamics within the university population. We review the initial efforts of onboarding wastewater surveillance and provide direction for structuring ongoing surveillance workflows and future epidemic response strategies based on those that led to reduced viral signals in campus wastewater.

  • Viral RNA levels in wastewater tracked the emergence of variants in student populations.

  • Intervention strategies suggested reduced numbers in wastewater viral RNA signals prior to variant emergence.

  • Public health promotion and educational tools are needed to take complex biological processing to actionable intervention strategies.

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