Milwaukee, Wisconsin launches COVID-19 wastewater testing dashboard

Jan. 24, 2024
The Milwaukee Health Department now tests wastewater across Milwaukee County twice weekly in collaboration with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, with plans to monitor influenza and RSV.

The City of Milwaukee has announced the launch of an online dashboard for COVID-19 wastewater testing data.

As the Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) shifts away from monitoring individual cases, the new dashboard will utilize wastewater data to detect COVID-19 trends ahead of clinical settings.

In collaboration with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), MHD started COVID-19 testing in wastewater, with results uploaded to the new dashboard. Laboratories can assess the virus's concentration in wastewater based on collection sites (or sewersheds), providing valuable insights into changes in COVID-19 cases.

Previously, the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences managed wastewater data sent to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services in Madison, WI. With the new online dashboard, the MHD Laboratory now generates and directly shares data for swift analysis.

“As COVID-19 continues to persist in our community, MHD's wastewater testing amplifies our commitment to the city’s well-being,” said Mike Totoraitis, Milwaukee Commissioner of Health. “Serving as an early warning system, this approach provides real-time, comprehensive insights into infection levels. By detecting the virus before symptoms manifest, we can proactively allocate resources, make informed decisions, and implement timely interventions to safeguard the health of our community.”

The online dashboard, covering South Shore and Jones Island sewersheds, enables users to track COVID-19 trends in Milwaukee County. Featuring trendlines and a stoplight warning system, the dashboard facilitates informed decision-making for necessary precautions.

Collaboratively, the laboratory and MMSD collect and analyze samples twice weekly. Using advanced molecular technology, results are promptly accessible on the dashboard. Additionally, MHD is working toward using this technology to monitor respiratory illnesses like influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), showcasing a commitment to public health.

“We are grateful to have MMSD as a partner and talented laboratory staff that make this work possible,” said Lucas Beversdorg, assistant lab director at the MHD Laboratory. “Now, we are eager to explore other ways wastewater testing can be utilized to help us further protect our community’s young and vulnerable populations.”