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Your Sacrifices are Saving Lives, Social Distancing is Working

Today I’m writing a thank you note, as well as a plea. To those who have stayed inside, to those who have instructed us to stay inside, to those who have given or followed instructions to practice social distancing – I know it isn’t easy. But as I watch my stir-crazy young daughters and fight with my friends and family who think “this whole shelter in place thing is overblown,” I can look at the data and tell you with great confidence: Keep staying home. You are saving lives.

Data from more than 1 million Kinsa thermometers tells the same story across the country: 3 to 7 days after a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order is enacted, fevers in that community start to drop. 

I do not envy our elected officials during this unprecedented time. They are being forced to make decisions that pit life vs. livelihood. They are working with public health experts, and are making the choices they believe are best, but without the necessary data to confirm whether  their tough decisions are having a positive impact. But at Kinsa, we can see that while these social distancing mandates are no doubt devastating businesses and workers alike, they are breaking the chain of infection.  We must support these efforts. We must continue to stay home and distance ourselves from each other. 

Kinsa’s county-level illness data makes a clear point: when schools, restaurants and bars are closed, effectively forcing families into their homes, fevers drop. 

Suffolk County - Share of Population with Flu-Like Illness
New York County - Share of Population with Flu-Like Illness

New Yorkers are experiencing devastating loss right now —  high density cities are not built for social distancing. But our data shows that recent restrictive measures and the widespread efforts of New Yorkers to follow them are paying off and slowing COVID-19 spread.

Kinsa evidence comparing counties also shows that taking early and aggressive action can flatten the curve. See the graph below contrasting a county that was able to quickly begin restricting gatherings vs. one that took longer to do so.

Santa Clara and Miami-Dade County - Share of Population with Flu-Like Illness

The two most common questions I’m asked when presenting these findings are: 

  1. Are you sure the data isn’t just highlighting the end of flu season? The short answer is yes. For the past 8 years, Kinsa has worked with leading scientists to create forecasting models that can accurately predict flu 12+ weeks out. By taking actual, real-time levels of fever in a community from our smart thermometer network, and subtracting out the expected cases predicted by the forecasting model, Kinsa can see what’s left behind — in many cases, clusters of COVID-19. 
  2. If illness is falling, why do COVID-19 cases continue to climb? A key reason COVID-19 is so troubling is because it can remain asymptomatic (so you don’t know you have it) and/or hide out for up to 14 days before symptoms occur. That means that we are just now beginning to see the grim consequences from those who were unwittingly infected 2-3 weeks ago, and who were spreading germs to others prior to broader stay-at-home measures. I’m particularly concerned for Florida, which has a high elderly and vulnerable population, and has been lighting up on Kinsa’s map since we launched healthweather.us on March 18. Unfortunately, if Florida follows every other trend we’ve seen from Kinsa data, the coming weeks could be devastating for the state.

While the data continues to concern us at Kinsa, the most promising insight we are gleaning this week is that fever levels are now decreasing across the nation, which means as a country, we are doing our job to “flatten the curve.” We are infecting each other less today than we were two weeks ago, and this alone could save hundreds of thousands of lives

On our end, we are continuing to work around the clock to plot our illness data and notify communities that are about to get particularly hard hit. We are also ramping up thermometer production rapidly as we can to work with local and state governments, providing additional Kinsa thermometers (without profit), so they may strengthen their illness signals and triage this health crisis as effectively as possible. We are working with all of our Kinsa users to ensure that they are doing their part to keep their families, communities and their country safe. And we are doing our best to let everyone know: your sacrifices are making a difference. Together we are flattening the curve. Together we can make sure our healthcare system stands up to this pandemic. By staying apart, we are working together to save lives.