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Smart thermometer company may predict high coronavirus numbers in Florida

The company thinks there is a correlation between a lack of preventative measures and the numbers

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A company that distributes smart thermometers to track the flu might be able to predict coronavirus hotspots before the CDC, according to a report from the New York Times.

And in Florida, they’ve observed an unusually high spike in influenza-like illnesses, even though national flu levels are declining, said Nita Nehru, a spokeswoman for Kinsa Health.

Nehru said they believe it’s related to coronavirus. A symptom of the pandemic illness is a fever, which is what the thermometer tracks on their map. The company looks at typical, observable illness levels and then at how much higher illness levels are compared to normal.

In Florida, the illness level is about 2.4 percent above what they normally observe.

“What we are trying to do with this information is show where something unusual is happening and help serve as a guidepost or help serve as a resource for public health first responders,” Nehru said.

Related: Friday update: 10th person dies as Florida’s coronavirus caseload rises above 500

Kinsa Health has given away more than a million of their internet-connected thermometers, which record temperatures above 100 as people get their results. In the past, their maps have predicted the spread of the flu before even the CDC, according to the New York Times.

And last week, Nehru said they saw a spike in Florida. She pointed out that their map that tracks atypical data closely mirrors the state’s own coronavirus tracking map.

She said they have also observed atypical illness in Washington state, one of the first places in the United States where coronavirus took hold, but classify it as mild. She said that is likely because the state has already been providing critical care to the sick and enforcing social distancing for weeks.

That stands apart from Florida, where the numbers are still high, she said.

Related: Friday update: DeSantis orders major shutdown of beaches, businesses in Broward, Palm Beach

“This is not proven out in our data, we can’t say that for a fact, [but] to me I think it’s an interesting correlation that the spring break stuff is still happening, we know coronavirus has been confirmed in Florida, and we’re seeing this increase in illness levels,” Nehru said.

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