Michigan company maps data to analyze, predict spread of coronavirus

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DETROIT – Oakland County health officials reported 318 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on March 23. Two weeks later, the total had skyrocketed to 3,591 cases, an 11-fold increase in 14 days.

How did it happen? This is the question that preoccupies millions of people in Michigan as the coronavirus epidemic continues to spread statewide. While it is impossible to know the exact times of infection, Detroit-based start-up Calculated Systems aims to give the public a better idea of ​​the most likely areas of spread, using data from the CDC and cell phones.

“We’re trying a different way to use the data for good and make sure that we’re not always chasing the curve, but being ahead of the curve,” said Will Conway, senior vice president of sales global society. .

By comparing the movement of data points with up-to-date case numbers statewide, Calculated Systems says it can not only predict a hot spot, but also where people who spend a lot of time in that hot spot have tendency to come together after they leave. This could help determine if certain areas are at greater risk for potential spread.

The company has built a program that analyzes billions of data points each week, collected from the mobility data the company obtains from a partner. Executives at Calculated Systems note that while they work with mobile data, they don’t focus on people.

Differential privacy allows the collected data to be used to display data point models without sharing any personalized information. Each device is assigned a random identifier and the data collected is completely anonymous, according to the company. Names, phone numbers and other personally identifiable information are not accessible through the data.

The first model produced by the company looked at traffic patterns around Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit Medical Center in Detroit, and McLaren Macomb Hospital in Mt. Clemens in the days leading up to the stay order. at Governor Whitmer’s home. Data analyzed between March 19 and March 23 shows significant amounts of traffic originating outside of Wayne County and going directly to the two hospital systems in Detroit.

Whitmer’s first stay-at-home order went into effect on March 23. Bars, restaurants and other social gathering businesses were closed the previous week.

Conway said it’s notable that the movement of data points shows a significant slowdown once the order goes into effect, with the exception of people entering and leaving hospitals.

This number of people entering and leaving hospitals is directly correlated with the increase in cases in Macomb and Oakland counties, according to data from Calculated Systems. The company says it’s important because the data shows what mobility patterns look like near hospitals just before a surge in cases takes place.

“If the mobility patterns (in the hospital) start to increase, we can start to detect if a hot spot is coming,” Conway said.

Conway said the company is engaged in the “data for good” movement, which focuses on using social data for positive impacts in communities.

There have been other cell phone data analysis efforts exploring travel patterns and social distancing, but not offering predictive information.

Conway said the company has data going back to the start of the year, so analysts are able to look at typical data point patterns ahead of the spread of COVID-19 to develop normal traffic benchmarks.

All of this data allows the company to better understand when there is a real increase in movements in hospitals and when there is a more modest increase in the number of people entering and leaving health centers. By educating the public and government officials of possible exposure sites, the company can help people understand whether they should self-isolate or request a COVID-19 test, the executives said.

“This technology is essential in helping medical providers mitigate epidemics before they occur. By mapping high risk activity areas, we can proactively deploy cleaning, sanitation and even PPE, ”said Chris Gambino, co-founder of Calculated Systems. “This targeted approach allows the already stressed medical system to deploy its limited resources as efficiently as possible. “

The company plans to share some of its findings on social media as it continues to analyze 12 billion data points per week.

As the Calculated team continues to collect and analyze data, the company says its goal is to work with state and local leaders to combine resources to better shape decision-making during the ongoing crisis. The company has contacted government officials, but has yet to confirm a collaboration, executives said.

The company is currently working on models that show the impact of social distancing on slowing the spread of the virus and how quickly clustering can expand the potential reach of the virus.

PREVENTION TIPS

In addition to washing your hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone can carry the virus. Health officials say you should stay at least 6 feet from others and work from home, if possible. Take hand sanitizer with you, and uses disinfectant wipes Where disinfectant spray cleaners on frequently touched surfaces in your home (doorknobs, faucets, counters) and when you go to places like stores.

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