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Mayo Clinic launches COVID tracking tool that breaks down numbers by county, predicts future cases

The tracking tool uses data from Google searches, social media and other sources to predict COVID cases before they're diagnosed.

ROCHESTER, Minn. — For the last few months, the Mayo Clinic system has used a COVID-19 tracking tool to monitor cases in every county across the country.

Clinic administrators use this information to figure out their staffing levels and to make sure they have enough hospital beds and supplies to treat patients.

This week, Mayo Clinic decided to release that tracking tool to the public.

"This tool will allow you to see what are the new cases of COVID where you live and work, where your family and friends live and work,” Dr. Henry Ting explains.

Dr. Ting is a cardiologist, researcher, and educator at Mayo Clinic. He leads a team of about 20 data scientists who are updating this information daily.

The interactive tool gathers information from state health departments, federal agencies and many other reputable sources, and compiles that data into an easy-to-use search tool.

Dr. Ting says the public version of this tool was released on Thursday, and, right now, it only shows what COVID numbers and infection rates are like in the present. In a few weeks, however, they will launch a forecasting tool that will be able to predict what COVID numbers might be like in the future.

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“It uses Google search information and other data to forecast cases. So, let’s say all of a sudden we have a 10-fold spike in people searching 'Where do I get a COVID test?’ Or, ‘What are the symptoms of COVID?’ You can imagine those things might predict a future spike or peak in COVID cases,” Dr. Ting explains.

Dr. Ting says they recently used this forecasting feature to predict a spike in cases near their clinic in Arizona.

"Our predictive tool was able to forecast that rise several weeks in advance so we had that forewarning,” Dr. Ting says.

Dr. Ting says that feature will be made public sometime in the coming weeks and will be helpful for business travelers or anyone who's planning a trip over the holidays this year.

"I think when people have knowledge and information that people can use that information to make better decision,” Dr. Ting says.

If you’re curious about this new Mayo Clinic tool, click here to check it out.