Using Data To Stop The Spread Of COVID-19 (infographic)

As COVID-19 spreads across the world, there are certain populations of people who are at increased risk for contracting it and dying from it. One of the most difficult populations to care for right now is nursing home patients. They live in close proximity to one another and are more susceptible to the virus and are considerably more likely to die from the virus. Additionally, it is hard to keep them sequestered, as the people they depend on for care and feeding come and go with every shift, potentially bringing the virus with them. In order to fight this novel coronavirus, we will need better data about how it spreads in close quarters like nursing homes so that early detection can lead to better containment.

How Data Is Already Helping

This virus has only been around a few months, so the knowledge about it is still very limited. What we do know is that social distancing is working and that it’s our best weapon right now. In cities with similar populations, those that issued stay-at-home orders earlier have fewer cases of COVID-19 than those that waited to tell people to stay home to stop the spread.

Unfortunately, the numbers also show that those living in close proximity to one another, particularly in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, are experiencing higher than average rates of infection than the general population. In Seattle in March COVID-19 cases among long term care patients spiked 172%. In the U.S. alone more than 2000 long term care facilities have reported cases on COVID-19, and once the disease enters a facility like that it’s exceedingly difficult to contain.

Data Might Be The Key To Saving Lives

Until there is a vaccine or a cure, containing the spread of COVID-19 is the best tool we have. That will require more data than is currently being used, however. Right now telling people to socially distance is the best thing we can do, and checking temperatures of workers before they go to work is better than nothing but not by much. Once you have a fever you’ve probably already infected others, as we know it’s possible to carry COVID-19 for weeks without showing symptoms first.

The WHO has already partnered with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and other large tech companies to try to find a way to better track important data in the fight. The Rockefeller Foundation committed $20 million to the development of better science for tracking and managing the outbreak.

There’s a lot of data out there, but figuring out which data is the most important is crucial right now. We know that we can track the spread using temperature data, but by then it’s already too late.

A Breakthrough In Data Is On The Horizon

Within nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, there is data collected daily about patients’ vital signs. Previously, tracking temperature was the best tool they had to fight the spread of COVID-19, but then one company’s nursing home dashboard was able to show a high correlation between blood oxygen levels and occurrence of COVID-19, up to two weeks before temperatures could show the same. By finding those infected long before they show symptoms, could long term care facilities like nursing homes stop the spread of COVID-19 in its tracks?

As more information about the pandemic comes to light, we will have a better chance of containing and eventually eliminating it. Until then, we have to rely on the data we have to stop the spread. Learn more about how data about pulse oxygen might be a better detector of COVID-19 than temperature from the infographic below.

How Data Saves Lives In The Age Of COVID-19 - infographic

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