San Diego

Snow, Vaccines and Fitness Trackers: San Diego Organizations Help Tackle COVID-19

NBC 7 spoke with different types of San Diego organizations, Sunday, all working to make a difference. It includes one organization that's studying how fitness trackers could help detect infection early on.

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We have come a long way since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic with the introduction of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. As science continues to evolve, so do the steps our communities are taking to make strides in the fight against COVID-19.

NBC 7 spoke with different types of San Diego organizations Sunday that are working to make a difference in the fight against COVID-19. One organization is studying how fitness trackers could help detect infection early on.

In the middle of Sherman Heights, the non-profit Mid-City Community Advocate Network poured 22 tons of snow at the community center.

It’s one way the group is tackling the pandemic. They hosted an event filled with food, fun and vaccines. Everyone was welcome to the free event with their families while also giving them access to the COVID-19 vaccine, booster and even flu vaccine.

“I think this is a great idea for the community to come and have a vaccine. To protect others from not getting COVID,” said Alma Bautista who received her booster Sunday.

The non-profit is trying to reach as many people as possible, especially as the omicron variant rapidly spreads. Lexxus Carter, with Mid-City CAN, told NBC 7 they had a wonderful turnout and response, prompting them to think about hosting another one.

“We know that it’s very important in our communities to actually meet people where they are and provide these safe and comfortable spaces,” said Carter.

Meeting people where they are and using the technology they already have is exactly how local researchers in San Diego plan to curb the pandemic too. At Scripps Research Translational Institute, a study is using fitness trackers like Fitbits or Apple watches to help create a COVID-19 detection system.

Julia Moore Vogel, Ph.D, is one of the principal researchers for two studies: a DETECT study and Long COVID study. The DETECT study uses data from fitness trackers to help detect a change in someone’s vitals early on that may be from contracting COVID-19. It’s one part of a larger system they hope to use to assess a person’s overall condition, based on algorithms.

“People can bring any device that they have that monitors their heart rate and share that information with us and then we can analyze it,” said Vogel.

More than 40,000 people have participated and more are welcome.

“The ultimate goal would be that we have a detection system across the country, maybe even across the world by having thousands and thousands of people sharing their data. We can see in San Diego there’s a huge flare right now. People don’t even realize they’re symptomatic yet, but we can see that there heart rates are elevated,” said Vogel.

The Long Covid study, which has yet to be funded, uses the fitness tracker data in combination with an app to help measure a person’s energy output. It alerts someone ahead of time, if they are exerting themselves too much to help conserve what they have left. Vogel uses this app on her Garmin device for this exact reason, as she is suffering from Long COVID-19 and hopes to find ways to help others recover too.

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