Research ArticleCORONAVIRUS

An early warning approach to monitor COVID-19 activity with multiple digital traces in near real time

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Science Advances  05 Mar 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 10, eabd6989
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd6989


Given still-high levels of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) susceptibility and inconsistent transmission-containing strategies, outbreaks have continued to emerge across the United States. Until effective vaccines are widely deployed, curbing COVID-19 will require carefully timed nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). A COVID-19 early warning system is vital for this. Here, we evaluate digital data streams as early indicators of state-level COVID-19 activity from 1 March to 30 September 2020. We observe that increases in digital data stream activity anticipate increases in confirmed cases and deaths by 2 to 3 weeks. Confirmed cases and deaths also decrease 2 to 4 weeks after NPI implementation, as measured by anonymized, phone-derived human mobility data. We propose a means of harmonizing these data streams to identify future COVID-19 outbreaks. Our results suggest that combining disparate health and behavioral data may help identify disease activity changes weeks before observation using traditional epidemiological monitoring.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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