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CovidIQ Text Tool Successfully Predicts COVID-19 Hot Spots Before Agencies

The CovidIQ tool successfully predicted a COVID-19 spike in Jacksonville, Florida, a full 2 weeks before it was recognized by the Florida Department of Health.

A large source of the miscommunication and confusion surrounding the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic revolves around diagnostics, whether it be access to these tests or confidence in the results. Because of this, predicting the true prevalence of cases in a certain area, or the next location of an imminent COVID-19 spike can prove challenging.

In a study presented at the virtual ID Week 2020, the volunteer, non-profit team of experts from around the country debuted CovidIQ, a confidential and secure novel text messaging platform aimed at informing the public of potential new hot spots of COVID-19 infection.

Users log their initial symptoms with the tool and provide basic demographic data, including gender, age range, ethnic background, and zip code. CovidIQ then queries participants on their symptoms on a weekly or biweekly basis, stratifying the indicators into major and minor criteria. All responses are anonymized and aggregated to protect privacy and ensure confidentiality.

Symptom options include none, temperature >99.6 °F, cough, shortness of breath, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, loss of sense of smell or taste, diarrhea, body ache, sore throat, and/or chills. Elevated body temperature, cough, and shortness of breath are considered major symptoms.

User cases are considered presumptively positive if they comprise any 2 major criteria, 1 major or 2 minor, or 3 minor criteria.

The service also provides real-time updates and information on COVID-19, including weekly estimates of the number of cases in a user’s area and possible next steps for individuals who are experiencing symptoms. The data is shared with public and community health officials as a source of real-time, on-the-ground information.

Relying on the self-reported data, CovidIQ beat public health agencies in successfully identifying a COVID-19 spike in Jacksonville/Duval County, Florida, a full 2 weeks before it was recognized by the Florida Department of Health and Johns Hopkins University in June.

“This kind of advance warning can help communities and individuals make better decisions about how they want to conduct themselves, how much exposure they’re willing to risk given what’s happening in their community,” CovidIQ volunteer Suzanne Templer, DO, associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told Medium.com of the tool’s detection of the Florida spike.

CovidIQ currently boasts nearly 2000 subscribers across 40 states and nearly 260 counties. Individuals interested in learning more should visit CovidIQ.org.

“While CovidIQ cannot be used to diagnose individuals, the combined results from many individuals show real-time changes in rates of infection for entire counties,” investigators explained. “Not all people who develop COVID-19 will need hospitalization. They may remain out in the community unaware of the risk they pose to others. And, because the official count of confirmed cases is delayed by 2-4 weeks from the time of actual infection, CovidIQ can sound the alarm much earlier when rates of infection begin to spike. Advanced warning can help communities and individuals make informed decisions about how they should conduct themselves.”

The study, “CovidIQ- A Text Message-Based Symptom Surveillance Tracker that Predicts New Areas of Increased Incidence of Covid-19 Disease,” was presented virtually at ID Week 2020.