Three-quarters of Americans have been urged or ordered to stay at home, to the extent possible, to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, and those measures appear to be working, The New York Times reports, citing data from internet-connected thermometer company Kinsa. The thermometers and their app upload temperature readings to a centralized database, allowing Kinsa to track fevers across the country. It started mapping fevers to catch flu outbreaks in 2018, and it modified its software to look for "atypical" COVID-19 fevers earlier in March.
Kinsa's million-plus thermometers have been recording up to 162,000 readings from around the U.S. each day since the coronavirus started spreading, the Times reports. Only strict social-distancing measures — closing bars and restaurants, asking people to shelter in place — led to a significant drop in fever readings, while declaring a state of emergency or limiting the size of public gatherings had little effect. Data from New York and Washington State's health departments have buttressed Kinsa's findings, showing drops in hospitalizations a few days after Kinsa spotted the falloff in fevers.
The Kinsa readings certainly look "like a way to prove that social distancing works," Dr. William Schaffner at Vanderbilt University tells the Times. "But it does shows that it takes the most restrictive measures to make a real difference." Kinsa data appears to show that social distancing is also reducing transmission of the seasonal flu.
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"People need to know their sacrifices are helping," Kinsa founder Inder Singh tells the Times. "I've had friends text or call and say: 'Inder, this seems overblown. I'm sitting at home by myself, I don't know anyone who's sick, why am I doing this?'" Read more about the fever mapping at The New York Times.
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