Ending Pandemics Calls for Broad U.S. Public Participation in New COVID-19 Tracking Program

SAN FRANCISCO, April 2, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Ending Pandemics, a nonprofit that is changing the way countries detect and respond to outbreaks, today announced its support for public adoption of a new COVID-19 disease tracking tool, COVID Near You. The organization is calling on everyone in America over that age of 13 to participate in this online tool, a sister tool of the successful Flu Near You tracking program co-developed in 2012 by the team at Ending Pandemics and the HealthMap team of Boston Children’s Hospital. COVID Near You was released today for public participation at www.covidnearyou.org.

The team at HealthMap moved quickly to adapt the Flu Near You tool to monitor COVID-19 using time generously donated by engineers at several companies. COVID Near You is a simple, free, anonymous, web-based tool designed to gather essential data to help public health leaders, policy makers, academic centers, and the private sector better understand the COVID-19 pandemic. Through a user friendly interface, participants provide daily updates on COVID related symptoms or report feeling healthy. COVID Near You maps this information to provide real-time local and national views of the illness and to help identify current and potential COVID-19 hotspots.

Mark Smolinski, MD. MPH, president of Ending Pandemics and co-creator of Flu Near You, said: “Many people have expressed feelings of powerlessness in the face of this COVID-19 pandemic. COVID Near You is a great opportunity to make a difference right from the safety of one’s home. As we’ve seen with Flu Near You, crowdsourced self-reported symptoms greatly augments traditional public health disease tracking and provides timely insights that can save lives.”

The key to effective disease tracking is large quantities of accurate data. Especially at a time with a lack of widespread testing, collection of broad sets of self-reported public symptom data can offer an understanding of the spread of disease, detect its movement as early as possible, and help experts more quickly assess the impact of large scale community measure like travel restrictions, forbidding mass gatherings, and various levels of lockdown. Flu Near You, which currently has nearly a half-million volunteers in the United States, has been highly effective at this, including generating real-time “heat maps” that identify emerging pockets of illness.

“We are excited to see the growing interest in direct community engagement for pandemics preparedness and response,” said Dr. Smolinski. “COVID Near You joins other noble efforts globally to ensure valuable data is not lost during this crisis. If everyone spent five seconds a day to report into this tool for the next two months, we would revolutionize our understanding of this pandemic.”

Ending Pandemics
Founded in 2010 within the Skoll Global Threats Fund, San Francisco-based Ending Pandemics was spun out as an independent nonprofit organization in 2018. Ending Pandemics provides scientific and technical expertise, and catalytic funding to find and contain outbreaks faster. Ending Pandemics partners closely with governments, citizens, frontline workers, academia and NGOs around the world. www.endingpandemics.org


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