COVID-19

Another paper suggests wearable devices can predict COVID-19 before symptoms

Scott Tong Dec 14, 2020
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Some smartwatches and other wearable devices have been found to provide early COVID-19 warning signs. Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Another paper suggests wearable devices can predict COVID-19 before symptoms

Scott Tong Dec 14, 2020
Heard on:
Some smartwatches and other wearable devices have been found to provide early COVID-19 warning signs. Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Necessity and invention — we know they go hand in hand. When a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic hits, innovators can come up quickly with products and ideas, including products designed for entirely different uses.

Like wearables, which are being used to detect early COVID-19 signs instead of simply counting daily steps.

A new paper, representing early findings of an ongoing study, has found that among people wearing Oura brand smart rings on their fingers, 50 were diagnosed with COVID-19.

“For 38 of them, they had really clear episodes of a fever associated with elevated heart rate and increased respiration rates, but before they were reporting it,” said Benjamin Smarr, data scientist at the University of California, San Diego. Smarr is the lead author of the paper in the journal Scientific Reports.

Predicting disease would be an unintended feature of the Oura device. And smartwatches and fitness trackers have also been found to provide early COVID warning signs, with strong data correlations, even for patients with no symptoms who can nevertheless spread the disease.

“We need to identify people as early as possible, before they really have a chance to spread the virus to their family, friends or colleagues,” said Giorgio Quer, director of artificial intelligence at Scripps Research.

Quer has co-published a separate study in Nature of wearables that appear strongly predictive of COVID-19 based on patterns of resting heart rate, activity level and quantity of sleep. Both publications are based on limited data and are part of broader, ongoing studies.

Wearable devices can also monitor social distancing. And this may just be the beginning for the public health uses of this consumer technology.

“Consumer wearable device makers and smartwatch makers are absolutely going to get into doing more of this,” said Robert Furberg, who studies technology and public health at the nonprofit RTI International. “There’s this compelling altruistic argument. And, I think, people will be interested in buying these devices.”

For now, different types of people who work in close quarters are trying out early warning smart devices in conjunction with researchers. The workers include nurses, retail and casino employees, and professional athletes.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

Read More

Collapse

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.