Facebook forecasts 11 percent jumps in COVID-19 cases in every area county by end of November

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Facebook projects COVID-19 case counts in every county in the CBS 17 viewing area will increase by at least 11 percent by the end of the month.

The tech giant is using data it’s collected to make predictions about the spread of the coronavirus. Facebook started the program in October and is hoping it can help leaders make more informed decisions throughout the pandemic.

“We’re trying at the tech company level to fill in the gaps of information that public health systems need information on but don’t currently have,” Facebook policy manager Laura McGorman told CBS 17.

Social media users can breathe a bit easier: The data does not come from status updates or personal information, McGorman said.

Rather, the company aggregates data from several publicly accessible locations — obtaining case counts from public health databases, mobility data from other tech firms that track people’s whereabouts, and survey results from universities that gauge how many people are symptomatic. Then, it uses its predictive analytics and artificial intelligence algorithms to come up with its forecasts.

“It’s really just a bunch of math, automated math that’s using the previous caseload to predict future case load,” McGorman said.

Its projections are for the two weeks that follow, and it projects increases of at least 11 percent in the raw number of cases in each of the 22 North Carolina counties in the viewing area by the end of November.

CBS17.com calculated the projected percentage change in each county between the current number of cases as determined by the state Department of Health and Human Services and the number Facebook predicts for Nov. 30.

According to DHHS, taken together, those local counties combine for more than 96,000 cases. Facebook projects that number will climb to nearly 110,000 — an increase of 14.5 percent.

It projects jumps of about 14 percent in both Wake and Durham counties, and nearly 15 percent in Cumberland County. It forecasts the biggest jumps in Person (19.6 percent) and Wayne (18.9) counties.

“Health systems can’t plan for the future unless they have forecasts for how caseloads, hospital beds, ICU capacity,” McGorman said. “All these things are things they need to be able to plan for a few weeks out.”

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