“The coronavirus is winning. We still don’t have adequate testing and tracing capabilities across many regions. And yet, states are reopening, assessing risk on the fly and seeing their cases surge.

I’ve been preoccupied with the question of how to reopen without letting the pandemic spiral further out of control, if that’s even possible. Universal mask wearing seems like a start. Same with moving gatherings outdoors.

And without preventive drugs or a vaccine, catching viral outbreaks early is critical. If we could detect irregular virus transmission at the earliest onset of symptoms, public health departments could act fast to encourage people to isolate or advise nonessential businesses to shut back down. What we need is an early warning system.

There are a few ways this could happen: a National Syndromic Surveillance Program like the one run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can theoretically track symptoms reported in emergency room patients. But that data isn’t always automated or shared efficiently. There has been talk of electronic health record sharing apps that could forecast outbreak surges — something like that is in the works.


And then there are the smart thermometers. Inder Singh says he has incorporated one into a helpful early-detection system. And his data is promising.

Mr. Singh is the founder of Kinsa, a company that has been building and selling internet-connected thermometers since 2012. The thermometers take your temperature and then let you upload the reading to an app. The app allows users to keep a record of their temperature and list their symptoms. It then provides guidance with prompts like “Should you be concerned?” and “What to do next.”

The company started in 2012 and the thermometer got F.D.A. approval in 2014. All the while, the app has been tracking influenza fever patterns and collecting data by ZIP code. The company has a unique perspective on the coronavirus; Kinsa can identify atypical-fever trends that are likely to be Covid-19 cases. The company has also created the HealthWeather map, a public, countrywide map that tracks atypical-fever spikes and influenza-like illness at the county level.

So far Kinsa’s atypical-fever data has identified Covid-19 outbreak trends early — the company notes that it has pinpointed case spikes in major Covid-19 epicenters on average 14 days before the first Covid-19-related death.”

Read the full article in The New York Times here.