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    Monday, April 20, 2020

    Instagram Founders Launch Website 'RT.live' to Track Spread of COVID-19

    (Photo : Markus Spiske on Unsplash )
    New COVID-19 Tracker: Instagram Founders Launch RT Live; The New Tracker Can Be Understood By Anyone Experts Say
    The co-founders of Instagram want to help parse COVID-19 data with the help of a new website designed to distill information on the virus' spread in different states across the US.

    On a newly launched website called RT.live, co-founders of the social media platform Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger who both left in 2018, use public COVID-19 data to calculate the effective reproduction number, an epidemiological tool that conveys the average number of people likely to be infected by just one person with the virus.

    According to Systrom, who spoke with Bloomberg about the new site, the co-founders' tool uses statistics taken from The COVID Tracking Project which aggregates health data on COVID-19 test results, including whether someone was positive or negative.

    Figures displayed next to the charts convey the average number of people who are infected by a single person and according to Systom, can be used to help contextualize how states are fairing on preventing COVID-19's spread.

    'If [the number] is above one, that means it’s growing very quickly, and if it’s below one, that means things are under control,' Systrom told Bloomberg.

    'We’re trying to take what is a complex topic and boil it down to a simple number that anyone can view from their home.'
    The tool highlights a number of interesting trends in states throughout the US including contextual information on hotbeds of COVID-19 like New York.
    According to RT.live, the effective reproduction number for the state is currently at 1.0 which is down from an average peak of more than 4.0 people infected by a single person with the virus.

    Additionally, the site shows that North Dakota appears to have the highest current effective reproduction number at 1.7 while Vermont has the lowest rate of secondary infections.

    While the tool can be used as an estimate, founders note on the RT.live website that the reliability of calculations are still contingent on different factors like the volume of testing in any particular location.
    'Absolute testing levels should not affect this algorithm much, but a fast ramp or decline in testing will affect numbers,' the website states.

    Founders say they hope the ability to view secondary infection rates with more granularity will allow onlookers to get a more nuanced view of how their actions are affecting the spread of the virus.

    'That’s why this dashboard is so important, because it gives you live insight into the effects of the choices we all make,' he said.

    The website mirrors other initiatives from the tech world to help make sense of the current pandemic.

    Both Apple and Google have decided to use location data from their respective GPS apps to help illustrate the effects of COVID-19 related lockdown.
    On their own respective websites, the tech giants have been able to show rapid declines in how people commute, the effects on retail, and even how often people are making trips to the grocery store.
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