Christina Astley, Gaurav Tuli, Kimberly Cord, Emily Cohn, Benjamin Rader, Tanner Varrelman, Samantha Chiu, Xiaoyi Deng, Kathleen Stewart, Tamer Farag, Kristina Barkume, Sarah LaRocca, Katherine Morris, Frauke Kreuter, John Brownstein
Global monitoring of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through online surveys sampled from the Facebook user base

PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2021: 118, Heft 51, (article no. e2111455118)
ISSN: 0027-8424 (print), 1091-6490 (online)

Simultaneously tracking the global impact of COVID-19 is challenging because of regional variation in resources and reporting. Leveraging self-reported survey outcomes via an existing international social media network has the potential to provide standardized data streams to support monitoring and decision-making worldwide, in real time, and with limited local resources. The University of Maryland Global COVID-19 Trends and Impact Survey (UMD-CTIS), in partnership with Facebook, has invited daily cross-sectional samples from the social media platform's active users to participate in the survey since its launch on April 23, 2020. We analyzed UMD-CTIS survey data through December 20, 2020, from 31,142,582 responses representing 114 countries/territories weighted for nonresponse and adjusted to basic demographics. We show consistent respondent demographics over time for many countries/territories. Machine Learning models trained on national and pooled global data verified known symptom indicators. COVID-like illness (CLI) signals were correlated with government benchmark data. Importantly, the best benchmarked UMD-CTIS signal uses a single survey item whereby respondents report on CLI in their local community. In regions with strained health infrastructure but active social media users, we show it is possible to define COVID-19 impact trajectories using a remote platform independent of local government resources. This syndromic surveillance public health tool is the largest global health survey to date and, with brief participant engagement, can provide meaningful, timely insights into the global COVID-19 pandemic at a local scale.