March 31, 2020

Data from internet-connected thermometers show that social distancing may be working.

From "Restrictions Are Slowing Coronavirus Infections, New Data Suggest/A database of daily fever readings shows that the numbers declined as people disappeared indoors" (NYT):
The company, Kinsa Health, which produces internet-connected thermometers, first created a national map of fever levels on March 22 and was able to spot the trend within a day. Since then, data from the health departments of New York State and Washington State have buttressed the finding, making it clear that social distancing is saving lives.

Kinsa’s thermometers upload the user’s temperature readings to a centralized database; the data enable the company to track fevers across the United States.... Kinsa has more than one million thermometers in circulation and has been getting up to 162,000 daily temperature readings since Covid-19 began spreading in the country....
Kind of an invasion of privacy — voluntary self-invasion by the users of the thermometers — but this is really interesting. Here's the trend in my county:



Here's Manhattan:



The blue line is where Kinsa would expect the trend to be in a normal flu season. When the orange line goes red, that's "atypical" in that it doesn't correspond to the usual pattern of the flu, so it might be inferred that's the coronavirus.
As of noon Wednesday, the company’s live map showed fevers holding steady or dropping almost universally across the country, with two prominent exceptions. One was in a broad swath of New Mexico, where the governor had issued stay-at-home orders only the day before, and in adjacent counties in Southern Colorado....

By Friday morning, fevers in every county in the country were on a downward trend, depicted in four shades of blue on the map.



“I’m very impressed by this,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a preventive medicine expert at Vanderbilt University. “It looks like a way to prove that social distancing works. But it does shows that it takes the most restrictive measures to make a real difference.”...

The turning point [in Manhattan] began on March 16, the day schools were closed. Bars and restaurants were closed the next day, and a stay-at-home order took effect on March 20. By March 23, new fevers in Manhattan were below their March 1 levels....

“People need to know their sacrifices are helping,” said Inder Singh, founder of Kinsa.... Mr. Singh said he had approached the C.D.C. about using his data as part of its own flu surveillance, but agency officers had insisted on him giving up the rights to his data if they did, and he refused....
Well, there's an issue. People are giving the company their data, and the company wants to own it, even when the fate of a nation is in the balance. Maybe Trump can iron out that kink. He seems to focus on the interface between government and private business. Anyway, it's great to get this view of things, and nice of people to sacrifice their privacy to produce this fantastic overview of the health of the country and the effectiveness of the social distancing measures.

62 comments:

rhhardin said...

Users are giving the data to the company in return for a service; it's not free to the company.

Ann Althouse said...

What's the service?

In the old days, you just had a thermometer that told your temperature only to you. Why is it a "service" to get told on?

gilbar said...

Ann Althouse said...
What's the service?


i don't know, Let's Find Out!
Anybody here (Ann? Meade? Dr K?) have an internet thermometer? Anybody?
How about an internet refrigerator? Anybody?
Why (WHY?) does Anybody think their appliances should be connected to their wifi?
Y'all SO realize, don't you? that they don't connect themselves to your router
YOU gave it the password.... So Tell US, WHY did you do that?

John Borell said...

Apparently, gathering and selling data is everything these days.

rehajm said...

Just like when you're on the Snapface or the Blogger it's data about you they want to sell.

..but why would CDC need the company to give up the rights to the data? It sounds like the same totalitarian government crap what helped us in to this mess...

John Borell said...

My refrigerator is connected to the internet. I like that I get an alert on my phone if I leave the door open.

My oven is also connected; I get an alert when it's pre-heated and can turn it on remotely.

My thermometer isn't connected to the net.

rehajm said...

Why (WHY?) does Anybody think their appliances should be connected to their wifi

My parents are moving into a new home where the range hood in the kitchen has a sticker on it that says 'wi-fi enabled'.

The fucking range hood.

Ann Althouse said...

I don't have any appliances connected to the internet. I do have all the devices that are connected because I want to use the internet — computer, iPhone, iPad, smart TV.

I could be wrong, but I don't think I have anything that isn't something I use to connect to the internet, and it would bother me if there were something that I had and didn't realize was sending info.

rhhardin said...

Find when you're fertile. I assume it keeps your record for you. Geeks want to track their temperature through the day.

Ann Althouse said...

"The fucking range hood."

So you're sitting in your comfy chair, and you decide the house stinks from whatever it was you cooked for dinner, and your iPhone works as a remote control, you lazy bum! Why not just turn it on by hand the next time you get off your ass and go to the kitchen for another snack. Oh! You don't need another snack. See? That internet-connected range hood is helping you lose weight.

clint said...

That's very cool -- real-time images of real data always is cool, even when the data doesn't really tell us what we want to know.

In this case, I'd think the problem is *who* signs up for this kind of thing. I'd put money that most of the people sharing their daily temperature readings over social media are under 30 and... I'm not sure what the right word is. They're in the same group who were mocking the coronavirus in the first half of march and then publicly shaming anyone who stepped outside their door for any reason in the second half of march.

If we want to know how much social distancing is actually doing for the spread of the virus, we need to be getting measurements from nurses and truck drivers and grocery-shelf-stockers and older retired folks and the toilet-licking-Mardi-Gras-and-Spring-Break crowd and the Masters-of-the-Universe who get on their private jet and carry Coronavirus from Manhattan to their summer home and cough on the grocery store clerk.

Re: What service does Kinsa Health provide in exchange for their users' privacy? If you go to their web site you can see. It's about monitoring your own vitals -- and those of your family (see: kids) -- to get their advice on whether and when you should go see a doctor and to track medications and so on. There have been a ton of stories in the past six months about apps like this, like about fitbit apps producing medically-relevant histories or sending push-alerts to their owner's phones to alert them to irregular heart rhythms.

rhhardin said...

You can tell internet-connected thermometers from regular ones by the taste.

Buckwheathikes said...

"For most of last week, as Mayor Bill de Blasio continued to urge New Yorkers to mostly go about their daily lives — sending their children to school, frequenting the city’s businesses — some of his top aides were furiously trying to change the mayor’s approach to the coronavirus outbreak.

"There had been arguments and shouting matches between the mayor and some of his advisers; some top health officials had even threatened to resign if he refused to accept the need to close schools and businesses, according to several people familiar with the internal discussions.

"Teachers were threatening not to show up to school on Monday."

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, by the way, has nothing to say about De Blasio fiddling while New Yorkers died in droves.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/16/nyregion/coronavirus-bill-de-blasio.html

evil_engineer said...

I have a scale that sends my weight to a phone app every morning when I weigh, so I can see the trend. I could see where I would want that to trend my body temperature if I think I might be getting sick (or to just know what my regular temperature rhythms are). I guess the scale company could be scraping that data and selling it to people that want to offer me diet aids and exercise equipment. I never thought of that, and not sure if I should care or not.

stevew said...

I'm not statistician so would like to know if these data are useful? Are the participants self-selected versus randomly selected? Does the total number of 162,000 overwhelm the selection bias?

tim maguire said...

What’s the CDC’s justification for wanting to own the data? Why is it portrayed here as the company not willing to make the sacrifice rather than the government valuing their own authority over helping the public?

Jeff Brokaw said...

“Internet connected range hood”

I had no idea that I needed such a thing — but I guess I do! Obviously.

That’s why it exosts.

stevew said...

IoT, it's in everything now, just not the appliances in my home. I don't use Siri, we don't have Alexa. There is nothing useful to me in having my appliances accessible over the internet or through my phone. My Onkyo receiver and blu-ray player are wifi enabled - but that means I can stream stuff without running cables back to the router. Then there's the well known security flaws in many of these internet connected appliances.

Jeff Brokaw said...

Great news on the fevers though. Let’s keep this trend going so we can get baseball back in our lives ASAP.

This is BULLSHIT man.

tim maguire said...

Ann Althouse said...What's the service?

The service is more precise health tracking on your phone. And probably for a lot less money than you’d have to pay if they didn’t get your data.

Kai Akker said...

People are giving the company their data, and the company wants to own it, even when the fate of a nation is in the balance.

The company does own it. It already owns it. The government should be delighted to have access to this information for a productive, informative use. Its demand to have the ownership itself is called communism. Not what American government is supposed to be about. If Trump "irons this out," it will be by telling the voracious bureaucrats to know a simple, basic limit to their powers.

rhhardin said...

The temperature averages might be declining as more people attain room temperature.

Rob said...

Wouldn’t it be the case that normally most people would take their temperatures only if they were feeling ill, but in a time of heightened concern over Coronavirus, many people who feel fine take their temperatures? And if the denominator therefore increases with a large addition of healthy people, the percentage with a fever would drop? That suggests the charts don’t show a decline in fevers but rather an increase in concern. I’m no statistician, but it seems fairly logical.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Fantastic that this is available. Thanks, Althouse, for the posting.

As to the other, short version: Government is about total control and zero responsibility.

I say that after 24 years in the military, 20 years as direct and sub contractor for Government at all levels local to national, and 20 years watching Government and politics.

No surprise at all that a Government office would not want to touch something it cannot fully control.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

It's not related to fevers. Body temperature naturally drops during hibernation...

Temujin said...

The most amazing thing to me about all of this is the creative smarts of the private sector. And the ability of the Trump team to pair the heft and weight of the Federal and State governments to access some things, coupled with their ability to break down the walls and obstacles that government typically erects on a daily basis.

They have broken down those walls, used the power of government to coerce or inspire others to join in the battle (some need coercion), and the private sector has been able to unleash the full power of their creative intelligence.

There is a great story that needs to be captured and told around all of this. But our Journalist! class seems intent on showing up as small children, unprepared for this moment in history (Think: Jim Acosta).

This is a very neat tool. The company wants to hold onto their info from people as their own. Government wants access to it. In this case, I agree with you that this would be Trump's area of expertise. How to get Mr. Singh to work with the government to get this used.

MikeDC said...

This is worthless data. Lots of healthy people are jumpy and taking their temperature just in case. This large number f healthy people is reducing the average temperature.

This is perhaps the most quantifiable measure of hypochondria ever produced.

Howard said...

More b******* from the people's Republic of China, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden + the evil MSM except Fox well except Sean Hannity. Of course they will produce fake news that shows that social distancing works this is the nose under the tent for a total police state and martial law.

Meade said...

"It's not related to fevers. Body temperature naturally drops during hibernation..."

Well, I got the fever down in my pockets
The Persian drunkard, he follows me
Yes, I can take him to your house but I can't unlock it
You see, you forgot to leave me with the key

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

I agree with Rob and Mike. Are these numbers based upon all people who take their temperatures or just the number of people with elevated temperatures.

It's allergy season. I took my temperature because sometimes I can't tell if it's an allergy attack or a cold (or worse). I'm also a bit paranoid about getting the Chinese Crud.

Wince said...

In my day, thermometers were just shoved up our asses -- and we liked it!

Bob Boyd said...

I certainly hope they're keeping racial data on all this. What color bum is each thermometer transmitting from? Fauxcahontas gonna want that.

Bob Boyd said...

This tech has come a long way.
Remember the early prototype internet thermometers? Wow. Probe the size of a fire plug, that back pack holding a battery out of 3/4 ton pickup truck, a six foot whip antenna...and that friggin' buzzing!

tim in vermont said...

CCTV cameras should be able to sense skin temperatures, I would think, since they work in infrared as well as visible light. That’s why they are often surrounded by a ring of IR LEDs to see in the dark. Combine that with face recognition and cellular phone location data and you have why Taiwan was so successful in contact tracing.

What a brave new world we live in. It’s maybe better to take the casualties to sprinkle the roots of the Tree of Liberty.

Sebastian said...

"It looks like a way to prove that social distancing works."

It would work better at lower cost if spikes in temperature required rigorous quarantine.

Darrell said...

This virus is contagious before the infected present a elevated temperature. That stops authorities using temp scans to weed out the infected at airports/etc., thus allowing the infected to spread the infection.

You can use Kinsa's service to see if women get aroused when you walk into a room, though.

Eleanor said...

I agree. This is best used as a measure of hypochondria. Just keep track of the growth of the number of people using the service. You can see how effective the fear mongering is.

bagoh20 said...

I assume social distancing does work, but it's not science to attribute that to falling temperatures. There were lots of other things happening at the same time (you know variables). People started sanitizing, avoiding physical contact, stopped sharing things, washed there hands 1000 times more often, and I bet a big one was stopping the hugging and handshakes. Social distancing helps us do that, but the contact control and virus removal behaviors are the real mechanisms at work.

bagoh20 said...

My doctor told me the first sign is fever and a relatively high one around 103.

Darrell said...

My doctor told me the first sign is fever and a relatively high one around 103.

You would have been contagious before that--at least for days.

bagoh20 said...

Something I question about this is: do we think the number of people infected was lower at afterward or higher? I thought the infection was spreading "exponentially" during this time and still is, but this implies infections were already dropping.

Original Mike said...

"I have a scale that sends my weight to a phone app every morning when I weigh, so I can see the trend. I could see where I would want that to trend my body temperature if I think I might be getting sick (or to just know what my regular temperature rhythms are). I guess the scale company could be scraping that data and selling it to people that want to offer me diet aids and exercise equipment. I never thought of that, and not sure if I should care or not."

Meh, I'll use a spreadsheet.

Kai Akker said...

LOL, Bob Boyd 8:12.

Fwiw, Peggy Noonan described her 3-week experience with the virus in her latest WSJ column, the weekend edition. She still can't say for sure it was the CCP virus because the results of her test of MARCH 17 have still not been given to her. But reading it, it seems overwhelmingly likely to have been the real thing. She was not hospitalized, but aspects of it sounded like serious discomfort.

Mrs. X said...

Isn’t the data only worthwhile if we have something to compare it to, something beyond the expected temperature line? What did this data look like in last year’s flu season, e.g.?

clint said...

bagoh20 said... "Something I question about this is: do we think the number of people infected was lower at afterward or higher? I thought the infection was spreading "exponentially" during this time and still is, but this implies infections were already dropping."

We were on the down-swing of flu season when all this started.

Achilles said...

clint said...


We were on the down-swing of flu season when all this started.

No.

This started in December.

China just lied about it.

All of these graphs are stupid crap pushed by people lying for China.

Big Mike said...

“People need to know their sacrifices are helping,” said Inder Singh

Which is why I don't trust the charts.

Bob said...

Wince said, "In my day, thermometers were just shoved up our asses -- and we liked it!"

Speak for yourself!!!

Bob said...

MikeDC said, "This is perhaps the most quantifiable measure of hypochondria ever produced."

I think you hit yourself a nice little bullseye there.

Ken B said...

“I'm not statistician so would like to know if these data are useful? Are the participants self-selected versus randomly selected? Does the total number of 162,000 overwhelm the selection bias?”

That’s a good question. Not even a statistician could tell you without knowing more. They are self selected in some way. My guess is that they skew towards affluent, educated, and conscientious.

bagoh20 said...

"My guess is that they skew towards affluent, educated, and conscientious."

So, are you one of them? No? Oh, that's not good.

KellyM said...

"rhhardin said...
Find when you're fertile. I assume it keeps your record for you. Geeks want to track their temperature through the day.

3/31/20, 6:09 AM"

This. Natural Family Planning (NOT the rhythm method) uses this as a standard.

For many years, I took my temperature every day upon waking. I then recorded it in my chart, along with other observations during the day. It would calculate all of this data and give me my fertile vs. infertile windows, and project other cycle-related info. Very effective if you're diligent.

On another note, the whole IoT really creeps me out. And with all of the publicized mishaps with Alexa, et. al., who in their right mind would even have one of these in their house? And what stops your refrigerator from becoming HAL and eventually going rogue?

Janetchick said...

I’m 62, widowed, live alone. I picked up a Kinsa thermometer at target about month ago because I didn’t have thermometer and thought I might need one. I didn’t even pay attention to it being capable of being connected to internet. I’ve used it. You have the choice of saving your info or not, well, it gives you the impression you have the choice in that you are asked if you want to save info. If you do then you can track your temp, which could be really helpful during an illness. I liked it so much I went back to buy one for friends and family and they were all sold out at Target. Couldn’t find one on Amazon either.

daskol said...

I would never, ever used a wired thermometer, or Ring or an Internet of Things refrigerator or anything. I won't even do FaceBook and stopped using Chrome because I am increasingly creeped out by data collection and aggregation, since I am in that industry and see how it is used even by highly regulated and largely ethically managed entities (and yet I gave my genome to 23andme because I got a kit for a birthday present, which is also why I have Amazon devices listening in on our lives as well).

Still, this is way cool, and it is great that we can visualize the impact social distancing is having on the spread of the disease, and nice to see the trend is cool too. Neatest aspect of the surveillance state to manifest since we started locking people down and reporting on their illnesses and contacts. I bet in China and even South Korea they will make everyone use something like this, and it won't even take much coercion.

Bilwick said...

I want to practice social-distancing more faithfully (as a loner I have in fact been social (or asocial) distancing most of my life; but unfortunately I am a senior citizen in the pedestrian minority of a very car-oriented, urban-sprawly, Sunbelt "Edge City." I would prefer to stay hunkered down in my bunker for the Duration; but I have to go out and buy food sometimes.

Bilwick said...

I want to practice social-distancing more faithfully (as a loner I have in fact been social (or asocial) distancing most of my life; but unfortunately I am a senior citizen in the pedestrian minority of a very car-oriented, urban-sprawly, Sunbelt "Edge City." I would prefer to stay hunkered down in my bunker for the Duration; but I have to go out and buy food sometimes.

Kai Akker said...

You see, you forgot to leave me with the key

Sweet poem, Meade. Absolutely sweet! You deserve a Nobel Prize.

Meade said...

Ha!

Kai Akker said...

even when the fate of a nation is in the balance [AA]

That comes off the tongue so trippingly, doesn't it? I'll bet that almost typed itself. What it couldn't justify.

bagoh20 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...

Didn't this reduction in temperatures take place about the same time that Trump was addressing us and telling us important information (or lies, depending on who you are)? It could be Trump's doing if you are just going to attach cause and effect to things happening at the same time. Trump lies save lives! I can hear the protesters chanting that now.

wildswan said...

If the corona virus was spreading exponentially during that period fevers would have gone up, wouldn't they?

As for why .gov wants to own the data,.gov can relate data sets that we think are private - such as medical records - or unrelated - such as Facebook - by declaring a health purpose for the integration. So .gov would want to integrate this very interesting data but would like to own it so as to be able to invade the privacy of the people within the data set without the news getting out. .gov is doing this integrating through an initiative called Big Data which is integrating Facebook, texts, medical records, family gene tracing, prison records, police arrests and a lot more. But you notice that with all the integrating of Big Data, the health system still isn't able to track a pandemic or say which communities might get it badly or why. That's because it isn't tracking diseases, it's tracking behavior and genetics. China's similar initiative is used for their social credit system. We have terrific people leading at NIH / CDC / Health Statistics but there are some little unknown units, heavily concentrated in epidemiology, doing strange things.