The City of Barrie has joined the province-wide COVID-19 wastewater surveillance initiative to help shed light on whether the number of infected residents is up, down or stagnant.

Dr. Lisa Simon, associate medical officer of health with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said the surveillance serves as a tool to understand the virus "within our communities."

Research shows that most people with an active COVID-19 infection shed the virus through their stool, at times even before symptoms trigger.

The city will provide samples collected from Barrie's Wastewater Treatment Facility to labs in Oshawa to analyze the amount of COVID-19 present.

The city will also gather samples from a collection system near Roberta Place, a long-term care home ravaged by the virus, to help the University of Ottawa's ongoing research into the coronavirus U.K. variant.

The city says the initiative poses no risk to the public or its workers.

Ontario is investing $12.2 million over the next two years to support the province's universities and municipalities with COVID-19 research.