The effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic globally relies on testing as a core component of the current strategy, which primarily focuses on isolating individuals to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and give researchers time to develop potential treatments and vaccines. The availability and amount of testing can help chart how the virus is moving through a population, to inform and direct necessary quarantine and contact tracing measures, but one key data point might be the spread and availability of testing sites.
A new group of volunteer coders and medical professionals, including Air Force software organization Kessel Run‘s Chief Data Officer Andrew Kemendo, and data-driven doctor and researcher Jorge A. Caballero, have created a new findcovidtesting.com website, which aims to provide up-to date location info for all testing sites in the U.S.
Immediately, please note that a resource like this is not meant as a directory for private individuals who are looking to show up at a test site, expecting to receive diagnostics. Health officials and experts are attempting to roll out testing as far and wide they’re able, but for the safety of frontline workers, and in order to allocate limited supply of testing materials as effectively as possible, you should always only consult with a medical professional via telehealth, or use one of the various official online screening tools in order to get a test. Just showing up somewhere won’t get you a test, and could put a lot of other people in danger.
That said, this database, which was built by a team of around 15 developers working remotely one the course of just one week, should be viewed as a potential resource to inform those working on the country’s emergency response and COVID-19 mitigation strategy, or efforts to ensure that testing is available across the country in a way that accurately addresses population needs, and that can provide a full picture of the extent of the actual virus spread.
It also could be very useful for individuals – provided it’s used in tandem with screening and telehealth guidance to make sure that people are getting tested based on case prioritization, and according to all possible safety guidelines for the health of those doing the testing.
Kemendo also says that the plan is to potentially scale this to cover countries outside the U.S., provided the group can find a scalable way to populate the location data. Right now, the site info is being scraped and validated manually, while the team works on some kind of infrastructure that might help automate the process as more test sites come online.
The effort and its resulting data will not be monetized at all, Kemendo says, and while it has no single sponsor, the company is working with credits from both Google Cloud Platform and AWS for running the backend. The team is currently looking for suggestions on how best to scale, and reduce the manual workload involved with maintaining an up-to-date listing, and their GitHub project is available here.