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UofSC researchers using Twitter to track COVID19

Through data from the popular social media app, researchers are able to answer critical questions about virus spread.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The University of South Carolina is researching ways to track COVID19 through Twitter.

Zhenlong Li is a Geography professor at the University of South Carolina who is currently working on this study along with two public health professors Dwyane Porter and Xiaoming Li.

“We want to build the method and the tools, using this pandemic as a case study, so that in the future, we can quickly use this system for another pandemic,” Li says. “We want to look at how this information can be used to predict future pandemics. or determine where they're likely to have higher risk of infection.”

The team uses human movement patterns from Twitter location data in hopes to develop a model that will improve the understanding of the current outbreak.

“With this kind of approach we are able to answer some very critical questions," Zhenlong told Street Squad.

Those questions being:

Where are people coming from and going to during this pandemic?

What is the current and future infectious risk?

Are people following the stay-at-home orders?

And how effective is social distancing?

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“So I think this is kind of our goal here: to first develop an approach and then use this approach to answer several critical questions," Li says.

He hopes this research will not only help in our current pandemic but with future issues as well.

The team received a $108,717 grant for their work from the National Science Foundation in May. 

To learn more about this project, click here

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