CDC introduces online 'coronavirus self-checker' for American public

Depending on the severity of the case, Clara will voice recommendations from calling 911 immediately to staying at home indefinitely.

A woman wears a face mask on the subway as the coronavirus outbreak continued in Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S., March 13, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY)
A woman wears a face mask on the subway as the coronavirus outbreak continued in Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S., March 13, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY)
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently offering the American public a "coronavirus self-checker" in the form of an online bot named "Clara" in an attempt to assist healthcare providers with the recent surge in demand for coronavirus diagnostic testing.
Anyone who is concerned they may have symptoms related to the coronavirus (SAR-CoV-2) and the disease that accompanies it (COVID-19) will be able to converse with the automated bot in order to make inferences on what type of treatment they should seek, if any, according to CNN.
When prompted, Clara will ask callers a series of questions to determine if they has contracted the coronavirus, and if so, the bot will be able to ascertain the extent to which COVID-19 has progressed. The bot will also gather information on the subject, such as their location in the United States and if they have come into contact with anyone known to have the coronavirus disease.
Depending on the severity of the case, Clara will voice recommendations, from calling 911 immediately to staying at home indefinitely. The bot will also offer localized information and instructions that citizens should follow based on the state whthey are currently located in.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first rapid coronavirus diagnostic test over the weekend, with a detection time of about 45 minutes, as the United States struggles to meet the demand for coronavirus testing.
The test's developer, California-based molecular diagnostics company Cepheid, said on Saturday it had received an emergency use authorization from the FDA for the test, which will be used primarily in hospitals and emergency rooms. The company plans to begin shipping it to hospitals next week.
The FDA confirmed its approval in a separate statement. It said the company intends to roll out the availability of its testing by March 30.
Under the current testing regime, samples must be sent to a centralized lab, where results can take days.
"With new tools like point-of-care diagnostics, we are moving into a new phase of testing, where tests will be much more easily accessible to Americans who need them," US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said on Saturday.
The US is not even close to meeting domestic demand for coronavirus testing. Many medical experts have predicted that delayed and chaotic testing will cost lives, potentially including those of doctors and nurses.
On Friday, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked whether the US can currently meet demand for tests.
"We are not there yet," Fauci said.
Just last week, the New York Department of Health ordered healthcare providers to cease diagnostic testing for non-hospitalized patients, in a bid to conserve supplies.
The diagnostic test for the virus that causes COVID-19 has been designed to operate on any of Cepheid's more than 23,000 automated GeneXpert Systems globally, the company said.
The systems do not require users to have special training to perform testing, and are capable of running around the clock, Cepheid president Warren Kocmond said in the statement.
The company did not give further details or say how much the test will cost.
The FDA has been pushing to expand screening capacity for the virus, while the World Health Organization has called for "order and discipline" in the market for health equipment needed to fight the outbreak.
Reuters contributed to this report.


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