Thursday, March 26, 2020
Not only are they not (yet) seeing atypical rates of fever, they’re waaaaaay below where Kinsa’s historical data would project them to be in a normal year. What’s happening here, one would think, is that the social distancing being practiced by locals is sharply reducing the total number of seasonal infections caused by all “influenza-like illnesses.” COVID-19 isn’t the only bug out there; the flu is circulating, as are other well-known and milder forms of coronavirus. Because Kinsa can only measure fevers and not the underlying cause, it can’t say definitively that rates of infection by COVID-19 specifically are decreasing. It’s possible that that rate is still rising but is being offset (and then some) in their data by dramatically declining rates of infection by all other forms of “influenza-like illness.” The overall trend is downward but maybe not the particular trend for COVID-19, especially since it’s more contagious than flu. And that’s the one we care about.
But. Obviously it’s possible that social distancing is driving down the infection rate of COVID-19 too. That’s what these lockdowns are designed to do, after all. The self-isolation strategy is — probably — working, too late for New York but hopefully not too late for a lot of places. Even Florida, the most worrisome fever hot spot in last week’s Kinsa data, is beginning to cool off.
Kinsa is just a hint of things to come and what a brave new world it will be--when we can get an idea of what's going on directly from data not filtered by the press. This is not there yet, but you can see it coming.