07:32 GMT22 October 2020
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    Facebook and Carnegie Mellon University researchers on Monday released a new map they have created showing a county-by-county breakdown of people reporting COVID-19 symptoms in the US.

    According to a description on the page, the map displays the estimated percentage of people in an area reporting novel coronavirus symptoms, not confirmed cases. The map is generated using public data from a survey by the Carnegie Mellon University Delphi Research Center. 

    The website states that “Facebook doesn’t receive, collect or store individual survey responses,” and that the map is “not intended for diagnostic or treatment purposes, or for guidance on any type of travel.”

    The map color-codes each county with a shade of red. Lighter shades represent lower percentages of people with symptoms, while deeper red shades show counties with 2.4% or more of people reporting symptoms.

    Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in a Monday post on his page that the map could help local governments and public health officials determine the safest time to reopen their respective states.

    “Understanding how COVID-19 is spreading is critical for local governments and public health officials as they allocate scarce resources like ventilators and PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], and eventually to decide when it is safe to start re-opening different places. Researchers believe these symptom survey maps can be an important tool in making these decisions,” he said.

    Zuckerberg also noted that Facebook is “uniquely suited to run these surveys.”

    “We serve a global community of billions of people and can do statistically accurate sampling,” Zuckerberg explained, adding that the next step is to conduct these surveys around the world to generate maps for other countries.

    “The next step is to start running these surveys globally this week. This will allow us to expand the symptom maps to provide county-by-county data across almost every country in the world where Facebook operates. We're also looking for more research partners around the world to help generate insights from this aggregate data to help with the COVID-19 response. We'll share more details on how to get involved soon,” Zuckerberg added.


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