Cellphone Data Can Help Track Pandemic Spread

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay reporter

TUESDAY, September 1, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Cell phone activity could be used to monitor and predict the spread of the novel coronavirus, researchers say.

They analyzed cell phone use in more than 2,700 U.S. counties between early January and early May to identify places where phones were used, including workplaces, homes, retail stores, and homes. grocery stores, parks and transit stations.

Between 22,000 and 84,000 anonymous, publicly available cell phone location data points were analyzed for each day of the study period.

According to the results published on August 31 in the newspaper, the counties where cellphone activity in the workplace declined the most during home orders had lower rates of COVID-19. JAMA Internal Medicine.

The researchers said their findings suggest this kind of cellphone data could be used to better estimate the growth rates of COVID-19 and guide decisions about closings and reopenings.

“We hope that counties can incorporate this public data on cellphones to help guide reopening policies at different stages of the pandemic,” said Dr. Joshua Baker, lead author of the study, assistant professor of medicine and of epidemiology at the University. from the Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

“Additionally, this analysis supports the incorporation of anonymous cell phone location data into modeling strategies to predict at-risk counties across the United States before outbreaks get too large,” he said. added in an academic press release.

Baker said it would also be possible to use data from cellphones to forecast hot spots and take action. But, he added, it will be important to confirm that the data is useful at other stages of the pandemic beyond the initial containment.

This kind of data could also prove to be important in the future, he said.

“They have the potential to help us better understand patterns of behavior that could help future investigators predict the course of future epidemics or perhaps monitor the impact of different public health measures on people’s behaviors,” Baker said.

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SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, press release, August 31, 2020

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