Earlier this month, Facebook joined the fight against COVID-19 by offering public health officials three new map products that could help inform coronavirus forecasting efforts and protective measures. At the same time, the tech giant forged a research partnership with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to help health researchers identify COVID-19 hotspots earlier. Facebook started prompting US citizens to self-report coronavirus symptoms in an opt-in survey from CMU, and over 1 million people responded within the first 2 weeks.
Now, the first map developed by using the aggregated public data from that voluntary user survey has been released. Facebook and CMU’s COVID-19 Symptom Map visualizes the estimated percentage of the US population with COVID-19 symptoms, segregated by county and hospital referral region. It does not show how many people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but rather how many are experiencing a fever and either a cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty in breathing.
See the interactive COVID-19 symptom tracking map by Facebook below:
Clarifying that the map is not intended for diagnostic or treatment purposes, or for guidance on any type of travel, Facebook points out it doesn’t receive, collect, or store individual survey responses. However, aggregated symptom survey maps can prove to be an important tool for local governments when faced with making critical decisions such as allocation of scarce resources like ventilators and PPE or deciding when it is safe to re-open an area.
According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the social media platform is uniquely suited to run such research surveys because it serves a global community of billions of people and can undertake statistically sampling more accurately than others.
“The next step is to start running these surveys globally this week. This will allow us to expand the symptom maps to provide county-by-county data across almost every country in the world where Facebook operates,” Zuckerberg explains.