Can data help us stop the spread of COVID-19? Until there is a cure or a vaccine, preventing people from getting sick in the first place is the only real weapon we have in the fight against this invisible monster. Currently, the only way we know if someone is a carrier is when they have tested positive or they have a fever. Unfortunately, there are too few tests to go around still, and by the time someone runs a fever they’ve likely already infected many others. Data is being used to find an earlier point of detection so the spread can be further stemmed.
In Seattle, one of the hotbeds of COVID-19 activity from early on, long term care facilities saw a spike in cases of 172%. These are the same populations that are both highly susceptible to the virus and its effects and also in close proximity to one another, further exacerbating the spread of this extremely virulent virus. While the residents can and are sheltering in place, those they depend on to care for them, from nurses to orderlies to cooks, have to come and go, potentially bringing the virus in with them.
Until now, many of these facilities have depended on temperature checks, both of employees as they enter work in the morning and of residents on a daily basis, in order to determine who may be getting sick. Unfortunately by the time, someone shows a fever they’ve likely had the virus and have been spreading it for weeks already.
Data has shown a strong correlation between changes in pulse oxygen levels and early onset of COVID-19, up to two weeks before an infected person would first show a fever. This data came from a nursing home dashboard by a company called Megadata, and is a promising breakthrough in early detection in the most vulnerable of populations.
Learn more about how data is leading the fight against COVID-19 from the infographic below.