‘You need to be patient’: COVID-19 wastewater scientist says it’s too soon to tell if Madison is past Omicron peak

Jan 18, 2022

MADISON, Wis. — Throughout the course of the pandemic, scientists have relied on a number of ways to track the spread of COVID-19 including PCR nasal tests, rapid tests, and contact tracing, among others.

One method, though, has given researchers a look at COVID-19 on a community-wide level without swabbing a single nose: wastewater monitoring.

“Wastewater is a great snapshot of the community, and it can tell us a lot about people who are asymptomatic or not testing,” Dagmara Antkiewicz, a scientist who’s worked with the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene’s COVID-19 Wastewater Surveillance Program since its launch, said. “So it’s a good, well-mixed sample from the whole entire community because everybody goes to the bathroom.”

One thing wastewater monitoring can’t do, at least based on the latest data, is determine if Wisconsin has made it past Omicron’s peak.

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