Wastewater surveillance a helpful tool in detecting new COVID-19 variants

Feb 8, 2022

The federal government’s widely-used online tool to track the COVID-19 pandemic now includes something most wrinkle their nose at — but which can be helpful in determining how much disease there is in a community: wastewater.

Wisconsin has been analyzing wastewater during the pandemic for signs of COVID-19 since December 2020 and recent signs point to the pandemic potentially losing some steam. Fewer people are testing positive and many municipal sewer treatment plants around the state are showing lower levels of COVID-19 or moderate increases. Hospitalizations and new infections may have gone down but are still high, state health officials caution.

"We had a peak of 18,000 in a single day and now our seven-day average is 4,000. So, the good news is we’re going in the right direction and hopefully that means good news on the horizon," Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the state Department of Health Services, said during a Thursday press briefing. "But there are still lot of people in hospital."

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