By: Emily Crane – dailymail.com – April 29, 2020
There could be up to 22 emerging coronavirus hotspots in small cities and rural counties across eight US states that are lifting lockdown restrictions, data researchers have found.
An analysis conducted by data firm Dataminr used artificial intelligence to examine social media posts related to coronavirus and predicts the smaller areas where infections are set to increase.
The firm identified the areas based on clusters of public social media posts that directly referenced, among other things, firsthand accounts of symptoms, relatives who have been infected and testing supply shortages.
The small cities or counties – located in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas – had all seen an increase in the number of social media posts related to COVID-19.
Those areas where the social media clusters were identified had not yet had a spike in COVID-19 infections, which the analysis suggests could point to them being emerging coronavirus hotspots.
In most cases, the data analysis shows the increase in social media posts occurring several days before the number of infections started to increase.
It aligns with CDC warnings that COVID-19 symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.
The data used in the analysis only accounts for infections reported up until April 21.
In the week since, figures independent from the analysis show that infections have spiked in some of the 22 areas.
All eight of the states where the 22 areas were identified have either partially lifted, or didn’t have, lockdown measures related to coronavirus.
There are two areas in Georgia, which reopened last week, that the analysis says are hotspots.
In Chatham County, infections increased by 32 in the past week. The week prior saw 25 new infections.
Clarke County saw an increase of 26 infections last week and 14 new cases the week before.
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp is pushing one of the most aggressive reopening plans in the US. Barbershops, gyms and nail salons were allowed to reopen Friday and dine-in restaurant service and movie screenings were freed to resume Monday – despite warnings that, without sufficient testing, the state could see a surge in infections.
In South Carolina’s Charleston County, infections jumped 35 in the last week and 50 the week prior.
Greenville County in South Carolina recorded 144 new infections last week and 117 cases the week before.
In Lucas County in Ohio, infections spiked by 313 last week compared to the 257 cases the week before.
Indiana’s St. Joseph County recorded 160 new infections last week and 169 a week earlier.
Last month, Dataminr, which tracks real-time data for the United Nations and other firms, correctly predicted 14 states where COVID-19 infections would spike within two weeks.
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