State of Michigan program tests wastewater to track spread of COVID

SWEEP program looks at wastewate samples at 19 treatment centers across state
Posted at 7:44 PM, Dec 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 22:22:49-05

LANSING, Mich. — Since the onset of the pandemic, health officials have been relying mostly on test results to track COVID rates, but now they’re rolling out a new program that targets wastewater.

People involved with the project say it could be a game-changer when it comes to getting more accurate numbers.

The SWEEP program or Sentinel Wastewater Epidemiology Evaluation Project works with established COVID wastewater monitoring sites around the state, analyzing samples on a weekly basis.

Alexis Travis is part of the program and says the project is important for tracking the disease.

“It's also very important as clinical testing rates are decreasing so that they can get tested if they know that COVID is in their community. The results can provide an early detection of the virus before people become sick,” Travis said.

Right now, most health departments are relying on data from positive test results, but the SWEEP initiative allows both officials and concerned residents to see the trends in their area by accessing a state dashboard.

The SWEEP program is paid for by a federal grant and looks at treatment sites in 17 counties and the city of Detroit.

“This is another tool in our toolbox and its made available to other health departments and stake holders who may find this data interesting and useful in terms of shaping their COVID response,” Travis said.

Initial data from the project shows a spike in the virus at nine of the 19 sites, just for the second half of November.

According to state officials, these higher rates directly correlate to the higher number of reported cases.

Travis says the SWEEP program is a nationwide effort and will be in place for the foreseeable future.

If you’d like to check out the new SWEEP dashboard you can find it here: ArcGIS Insights (

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