Wastewater data suggests more COVID-19 infections in Janesville than reported

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 3:34 PM CST
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JANESVILLE, Wis. (WMTV) - Wastewater samples are providing a clearer picture of COVID-19 in Janesville, with data suggesting more COVID-19 infections than what is actually being reported.

The Rock County Health Department says its dashboard data is likely not capturing the full extent of COVID-19 infections in Janesville, as people with mild symptoms or none at all may not be getting tested. At-home COVID-19 tests are also not always reported to the agency.

Rock County Public Health Department Epidemiologist Nick Zupan explained that data from the City of Janesville’s Wastewater Utility proposes more COVID-19 case activity than what comes up positive from PCR testing.

“The wastewater testing can give us an idea of the trends that are occurring beyond what is reported to the health department in PCR testing,” Zupan said. “Although it’s difficult to estimate how many more people have COVID-19 based on the wastewater data, we are seeing much higher levels now than any other time in the pandemic.”

Samples of utility wastewater are collected twice per week and sent to the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene for testing. The laboratory then determines the amount of COVID-19 present in the community and posts it on the state’s dashboard.

Based on wastewater samples in Janesville, the seven-day rolling average for COVID-19 was 127.4 per 100,000 residents. The peak seven-day average so far for wastewater in Janesville was reported just last Saturday, at 188 per 100,000 residents.

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