Experts: Wastewater monitoring mirrors COVID-19 case decline in county, too early to say we've peaked

Posted at 10:23 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 23:23:06-05

MILWAUKEE — Data from Milwaukee County’s COVID-19 dashboard shows a decline in overall cases and the seven-day average. Wastewater monitoring for COVID-19 shows similar trends, but experts say it’s too early to say we’ve reached a peak.

According to the county’s dashboard, earlier this week the area was seeing a seven-day average of cases at 1,418. That’s down more than 1,000 from the week before.

That data comes from the results of testing.


At the same time, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences are monitoring wastewater for COVID-19 and the numbers show generally the same trend.

But with occasional peaks and valley’s, the program’s director Dr. Sandra McLellan says it’s too early to say we’ve peaked like other parts of the country.

wastewater monitor
The advantage to wastewater monitoring over testing is everyone has to use the restroom.

"We do see some decreases in certain wastewater treatment plants, but we really need three to five data points. So that’s two-and-a-half weeks worth of testing," Dr. McLellan said.

TMJ4 News first took you inside the Milwaukee lab last year, and since then they’ve continued to not only identify the presence of COVID-19, but variants as well.

“That’s been really informative to see how quickly this spread throughout the community” Dr. McLellan said.

Dr. Sandra McLellan
Dr. Sandra McLellan

Even with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, they were still seeing Delta mixed in, Dr. McLellan said.

The advantage to wastewater monitoring over testing is everyone has to use the restroom. Not everyone will get tested.

“I think that’s the real power of this approach, is regardless of ups and downs of how many people are being tested, we can kind of keep an eye in things in the same way over time” said Dr. McLellan.

Data from wastewater monitoring programs around the area are available here.

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