With millions of users, COVID symptom study app proves effective at predicting cases

BOSTON — Coronavirus tests are still not easy to come by for many people, but a new study found an app developed by local researchers can be fairly accurate at predicting cases.

More than 3.5 million users have already downloaded the app.

“We’ve seen in our data, for example, that the earliest symptoms of COVID can give people maybe even a five day warning sign that there might be an area that needs to have more testing and more resources,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Chan.

Covid Symptom Study app users are prompted daily to enter how they’re feeling. If they feel fine, they’re done for the day. If they’re not feeling well, the app asks follow-up questions that include possible symptoms of the coronavirus.

Chan says the app highlighted lesser known symptoms like loss of smell and taste, as big predictors of COVID-19 infections.

“Hopefully, if I ever do get sick, we’ll be able to catch it early,” said Newton app user Kim Bertrand. “My concern is keeping my family safe. And you know, how do we reenter society and be safe because we’re here for the long haul."

“As we start to open up the economy, and people start to get back to work, we can have people continue to report on the app, which allows us to say, you know, there’s maybe a little pocket of symptoms developing in this area of the city or of the of the state," said Chan. “Let’s watch out for that and be able to take advantage of the extra time it gives us to deal with that and to make plans.”

He's encouraging people of all walks of life to participate in the study with the app.

Somerville resident Derek Dyer is encouraging his friends to join as well in hopes of keeping community safe as the state reopens.

“I have some underlying conditions, so I know I’m not in a rush to get out there into the crowd with everybody," said Dyer. “But I’d like them to make sure that they do it right when they’re starting things back up. It’s a little bit of help that I can give without, without, you know, having to endanger myself or anybody else.”

Neither Dyer or Bertrand expressed any privacy concerns when asked, saying the app is only tracking symptoms, not other personal information.

The CDC is now recommending the app on its website.

You can download the Covid Symptom Study app in the Apple App Store.

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