In case you’re feeling hopeless and frustrated after Day Whatever in coronavirus lockdown, there’s new evidence that social distancing is starting to make a difference. New data released by Kinsa Health, medical technology firm, suggests that fevers — a common symptom of COVID-19 — are decreasing in areas where stay-at-home orders are in place. This implies that yes, social distancing is working, so everyone needs to continue to stay put.
Kinsa first created a fever map of the US on March 22 that shows in real time that social-distancing restrictions are slowing spikes in fever, reported the New York Times. This is how it works: The thermometers collect temperature data from individual users, plot them on a US map, and compare the fever trends with policies enacted by local governments. In order to home in on COVID-19, Kinsa tweaked its software to look for atypical fever patterns that can’t likely be attributed to flu, and are hence likely to be caused by coronavirus.
The good news is that fevers appear to be holding steady or dropping around much of the country. But according to the data that Kinsa shared with the New York Times, limiting the size of public gatherings or declaring a state of emergency did not seem to impact fever rates. Dramatic results have only been recorded in cities where officials have closed restaurants and issued official orders for people to stay in their homes, like NYC, which began enacting drastic restrictions March 16.
One week after restrictions were enacted in NYC, fever rates in the city had dropped below the levels they were at the first week of March, reported Times. Health officials are buoyed by the results. “This is a great example of technology being able to show what we think we’re experiencing — and it’s consistent with our data,” Howard Zucker, New York State’s health commissioner, told the New York Times. San Francisco and Washington state are also seeing downward infection rate trends as a result of social distancing.
What all of this means, in practical terms, is that we need to stay vigilant. Even with perfect adherence to social distancing, upwards of 100,000 Americans could die from COVID-19. “We should be prepared for it. The more we push on the mitigation the less the likelihood it would be that number," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN. Mitigation, in this case, means we stay home en masse. At least we can all hunker down a little happier knowing that our individual actions are, in fact, saving lives.