LOS ANGELES – Facebook released the first maps of people reporting symptoms of COVID-19 on Monday, offering county-by-county data to help track the spread of the virus.
“Understanding how COVID-19 is spreading is critical for local governments and public health officials as they allocate scarce resources like ventilators and PPE, and eventually to decide when it is safe to start re-opening different places,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post. “Researchers believe these symptom survey maps can be an important tool in making these decisions.”
The preliminary data for Los Angeles County – based on a survey conducted by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and relying on an initial data set that is expected to grow – estimates that 0.75% of residents experienced symptoms of the coronavirus in a week’s time. In Orange County, the percentage was 0.82%. Riverside County was at 0.59%, with San Bernardino County at 0.56%. That compares with a rate in Queens County, New York, of 2.31%, Rockland County, New York, of 4.4%, and Santa Cruz County, in California, of 1.54%.
The data is self-reported based on symptoms and does not indicate individuals testing positive for the virus.
Facebook says it designed the data-gathering effort “with privacy in mind from the start while providing new ways to help researchers and experts understand this crisis.” The company said it does not receive, collect or store individual survey responses and researchers at Carnegie Mellon see anonymous responses.
“Facebook’s research partners – CMU, Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland – are committed to only using survey results to study and help contain COVID-19,” the company said in a release.
The work is one of multiple research efforts being undertaken by the tech giant and various partners.
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Google and Facebook announced earlier this month that they would team up to share health data and trace contacts of people testing positive for the coronavirus. The partnership between the two rivals relies on creating technology that is operable on both iOS and Android platforms.