Giving Compass' Take:

• Surveys of self-reported symptoms are helping Facebook and GoogleSelf understand data on real-time COVID-19 activity. 

• How might this research be used to curb infection rates? 

• Understand more about data sharing in COVID-19 research. 

Researchers are gathering self-reported descriptions of COVID-19-related symptoms nationwide with the help of Facebook and GoogleSelf. The self-reports correlate well with test-confirmed cases of the disease, the researchers say.

Millions of responses to surveys by Facebook and Google users are providing the team with real-time estimates of disease activity at the county level for much of the United States, says Ryan Tibshirani, co-leader of the Delphi COVID-19 Response Team at Carnegie Mellon University.

“I’m very happy with both the Facebook and Google survey results,” says Tibshirani, associate professor of statistics and machine learning. “They both have exceeded my expectations.”

The survey results, combined with data from additional sources, provide real-time indications of COVID-19 activity not previously available from any other source.

The COVIDcast site features estimates of coronavirus activity based on those same surveys from Facebook users. Later this week, the COVIDcast site will debut interactive heat maps of the United States, displaying survey estimates from not only Facebook, but also Google users. The maps also will include anonymized data provided by other partners, including Quidel Corp. and a national health care provider.

Using these and other unique data sources, the researchers will monitor changes over time, enabling them to forecast COVID-19 activity several weeks into the future. They also plan to use this information to produce “nowcasts,” which are integrated estimates of current disease activity that they expect will be more reflective of reality than are daily compilations of test-confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Relying only on positive test results may not provide a complete picture of disease activity because of limited test capacity, reporting delays, and other factors, says Roni Rosenfeld, co-leader of the Delphi research group and head of the machine learning department.

Read the full article about COVID-19 self-reported symptoms by Jason Maderer at Futurity.