Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Can a Smartwatch or Other Wearables Detect Covid-19 Symptoms? | WSJ

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- [Officer] Come back around on this side,

and we'll send you in for the second test.

- Thanks so much.

All right, here we go.

Here goes nothing, but even before I had that swab

stuck basically into my brain, I had a feeling

of what the result would be.

- [Nurse] Felt like you ate a little wasabi.

- Yeah.

How did I know?

Because I turned my body into a COVID-19 detecting

computer with various wearable devices.

(upbeat 80s music)

Yep, all these send data about my body

via Bluetooth to apps on my iPhone.

So why all the things?

So why all the things?

Well, because medical researchers and tech companies

have begun to see if wearables can spot sickness,

and right now, they're very focused on COVID-19,

and even seeing if these wearables

can be an early detection system.

Each of these continuously monitors for one or more

possible COVID-19 indicators, higher body temperature,

heart rate changes, low blood oxygen levels.

I'm going to take you through each of these,

but before that, let me be clear about something.

None of these can tell you if you do or don't have COVID.

That's why I recruited Dr. Eric Topol,

executive vice president of Scripps Research.

- Well, the problem is,

is there's so much confounding potential

of other things that could cause a mild elevation

in temperature, a increase in resting heart rate.

These parameters are not that crisp a signal

for COVID, only when they're together,

and only when they were in a cluster of people,

do they become the real deal.

- Still, I was committed to my experiment.

I don't know if I'm going to cough or throw up in my mask.

Number one, temperature tracking.

My average temp for the last week, depends on what you ask.

A fever is 100.4, according to the CDC.

The $300 Oura Ring was the most interesting to me.

It's one of the only wearables that takes temperature,

and it doesn't give you a readout of your core temperature,

like a regular thermometer.

Instead, it figures out your baseline temp over a few weeks,

and then reports fluctuations.

The thing that's great about the Oura

is that it takes continuous temperature

in a comfortable way.

A patch like this one from temp track

does continuous core temperature,

but it's very uncomfortable,

and while I liked the Kansas Smart Thermometer

the best, you have to remember to use it.

What does all this temperature data tell you?

- Very little, unfortunately,

The problem with temperature is more than half of people

who have COVID-19, bonafide infection,

they never mount a fever response,

and the other thing, of course,

is that you're particularly infectious

before you have a fever,

so what happens before you have a temperature increase

is your heart rate goes up many hours,

or a day or two before, so the heart rate resting

is actually more sensitive than a temperature.

- Which brings me to number two,

heart rate and activity tracking.

My average resting heart rate for the last week,

according to Oura, 54 beats per minute.

Garmin, Apple, and Fitbit said 60 beats per minute.

Oura says it only measures heart rate at night,

hence the lower average.

- 30 To 40% of infections of COVID are asymptomatic,

no symptoms, but you should be able to pick them up,

if your heart rate, your body is reacting to it,

even though you don't have symptoms,

so the fact that your heart rate has never gone up

is a really good sign that there's nothing going on,

whether it's COVID or anything else.

I mean, you're not even under stress, even.

- Okay, well, let's be clear, I am under stress, okay, okay?

Researchers have started to look at heart rate,

respiratory activity, and sleep data

in people who test positive for COVID-19.

Once the studies and more of the research is done,

the idea is that these wearables could get algorithms

that would look at our data and give us some early warning.

FitBit CEO James Park told me that's the company's goal

with its own study.

- A user could receive a alert that's color coded green,

yellow, red, and then they can assess

whether they need to self-quarantine

based on that risk assessment,

and then follow up with a physician

for a traditional nasal swab test.

- Oura already doing something similar with the NBA

in the Orlando Bubble.

Wearers are notified if data points hit certain levels.

Number three, blood oxygen tracking.

My average blood oxygen level this week

from a Walgreen's pulse oximeter, 98%,

the Garmin 96%,

A low blood oxygen level, something in the 80

or low 90% range can be a signal for COVID-19,

which has made pulse oximeters the hottest gadget

of the year, but if you have one of Garmin's

latest wearables, you don't need to buy one.

It's built right in.

Dr. Topol said my scores looked good,

but that with blood oxygen,

it's only helpful for people already diagnosed with COVID-19

to gauge the severity of the illness.

There's one last thing our wearables

might end up with, cough monitoring.

This patch from Northwestern being used in studies

tracked my coughs, even my throat clears.

According to the readouts, I was all good,

and then, it was finally time to ask, do I have COVID?

- No, you don't have COVID.

I'll rest my case, you don't have covert.

Of course, you have to have a test to prove that.

- A few days later,

my official test results said the same thing,

and maybe the best thing about this wearable data

is telling you if you should get a test or not.

- So the way I look at it is, in the months ahead,

people will have at their home a testing kit

that will give them the answer in 15 minutes,

and they'll also be using wearables, if they're smart,

because they already have these devices largely,

and so, you wouldn't do the test unless

either you had symptoms or your sensors

were coming together, that there's something going on.

- The one problem with that is that some of the communities

hit hardest by COVID-19 may not have access to these

sometimes pricey wearables,

but at least you don't need to own or wear

all the things at once.

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