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Help Researchers Track COVID-19 – Scientific American

Getting a handle on how COVID-19 is spreading across the country is difficult, because current models are based on people who have been tested. Since tests for the disease are limited, and not distributed evenly, there’s no way to know quite how the disease is spreading. But now, you can help solve this problem, thanks to researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard. Working with Google and other partners, they’ve introduced COVID Near You, a website where everyone can report on how they’re feeling.  

“Capturing on the ground information in real-time from the public really can give us a sense of what’s happening at the community level and it also gives the public an opportunity to contribute back to public health.”

That’s Kara Sewalk at Boston Children’s Hospital. She’s program manager for COVID Near You. She says your input goes into a national map that updates constantly, showing exactly how the disease is progressing.

“This type of data will be useful in terms of predictive modeling of understanding where potential hotspots currently exist or could exist in the next few weeks to few months, to however long the outbreak continues.”

The site is useful for the public, as well.

“We also really were inspired to create a tool where users can get an idea of COVID-related symptoms in their local area. We want users to learn about potential areas that could be highly affected by this pandemic. And I think it gives an opportunity to see what’s happening at the national scale, too, from symptom-recorded data from others just like them across the U.S.”

Participating is easy: just go to the website COVIDNearYou.org and let them know if you’re feeling great or sick. If you’re not feeling well, they have a few follow up questions.

“And we also want users to continually report in. It’s helpful to have people come back to the website week after week to continue to report in symptoms that they may or may not be experiencing. Even if you’re healthy, that type of information is extremely valuable for us to know. So that’s why we created a feature where users can actually submit their phone number to receive text reminders to continue to report their health status.

It takes only a minute each week to help researchers track COVID-19. If you want to check it out, go to COVIDnearyou.org.

—Bob Hirshon

(The above text is a transcript of this podcast)

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