Since the Covid-19 infection rate is rising exponentially faster than news outlets and authorities can keep up with, the CDC has a self-checking bot for residents of the United States to advise whether or not their symptoms deserve a hospital visit. Microsoft, whose technology powers the service, describes this as a tool to prevent “a bottleneck from overcoming the health systems that are threatening to overwhelm the crisis”.
Preparations for that scenario on our way. In New York City, FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers were sent to install improvised hospitals in the Javits Center, with a total of 2,000 beds. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that the total of 16,887 confirmed covid-19 cases in New York State more than tripled on Saturday and surpassed CDC’s national count as of Friday. From Monday morning almost one person died of Covid-19 per hour in NYC only. The United States has achieved a total of 35,345 reported cases.
More of a self-triage tool than a replacement for professional medical diagnosis, the CDC bot is specific to the United States. It first asks about age and pre-existing health problems before transitioning from life-threatening symptoms like gasping or seizures that don’t stop, to lesser symptoms like fever and coughing. It also asks for your location and whether you have been there exposed to people who have tested positive for the virus. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, you may be referred to the emergency center, to the emergency room, to a healthcare provider, or to stay home and isolate yourself.
According to the CDC, most people Infected with Covid-19 experience mild symptoms and can recover from home. If you need care, the CDC recommends calling ahead of time before going to the doctor so medical professionals can prepare to protect themselves.
Self-triage and social distancing can help not only to stop the ‘bottleneck’ in hospital wards, but also to reduce a concurrent health crisis with the Covid-19 outbreak: The physical and mental health of already overloaded medical professionals. As the New York Times reported, U.S. medical professionals do their jobs at a reduced risk protective equipment. Those who are good enough to work may face the extraordinary emotional stress of being forced to make life and death decisions through redistribution scarce life support equipment such as respirators. Speak to David Remnick on FridayDr. Duke University’s Philip Rosoff said the trauma that these caregivers burden “should not be underestimated.” Completing the survey should also help the CDC get a better idea of the magnitude of the outbreak in all states, while testing remains shameful inadequate and willing hopefully give the agency more tools for allocating resources.