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HealthWeather: A Year in Review

March 18, 2021  ||  By The Kinsa Team

On March 18, 2020, Kinsa launched HealthWeather.us to show when and where illness starts and spreads. Launching HealthWeather was not spontaneous, but rather the result of eight years of work: building a network of millions of smart thermometers across the U.S. and aggregating anonymous data into precise geographic signals of illness spread. In March of 2020, these signals clearly showed unusually high levels of illness across the country, which proved to closely correlate with clusters of COVID-19 up to 3 weeks before cases entered the medical system —creating the first early warning system for COVID-19.

For a company with a mission to track and stop the spread of illness, this was a momentous day.

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Fast forward to today, March 18, 2021. HealthWeather is not just a map of fevers; it has evolved into a highly sophisticated outbreak prediction model, accompanied by insights and analysis to provide the millions of Americans visiting the site to understand the level of illness risk in their area. 

HealthWeather identified COVID-19 spread weeks before cases surged in states like New York and Florida. It saw illness increasing in the summer, allowing us to alert cities and states that COVID-19 was going to be surging shortly. It showed that leaders can use real-time data to prevent outbreak hot-spots from becoming infernos, and when they took action such as mandating social distancing or even shutting down schools and businesses, HealthWeather showed how quickly those actions were breaking the chain of infection. This showed Americans that their sacrifices during lockdowns were working. 

Early versions of the site featured beacons indicating states where COVID-19 surges were expected in the coming weeks. With subsequent refinements, HealthWeather now shows a county-by-county risk score, giving people critical information on “what’s going around” that they can turn into action.

With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in sight, HealthWeather will continue to feature cutting-edge data science and analysis. We’ll tell stories with data. We’ll tackle questions such as whether schools are hotspots of COVID-19, examine how socio-economics impacts illness, and even investigate how weather changes our health habits. And most importantly, we will continue to refine this early warning system so we are not caught off guard by illness again.

Our ability to see where illness starts and spreads in real time would not be possible without one key ingredient: our network of 2.5 million users across the country who use the Kinsa smart thermometer and medical guidance app. In doing so, they not only have a system that guides them to care when they fall ill so they can get better faster but with their privacy completely protected, they contribute anonymous data that when aggregated at the population level, unlocks the key to the most effective early warning system— a system which can save lives and livelihoods. Every user makes this system more accurate, and we’re grateful for everyone who contributes.

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