The Pace and Pulse of the Fight against Coronavirus across the US, A Google Trends Approach

by   Tichakunda Mangono, et al.

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting our lives at unprecedented speed and scale - including how we eat and work, what we worry about, how much we move, and our ability to earn. Google Trends can be used as a proxy for what people are thinking, needing, and planning. We use it to provide both insights into, and potential indicators of, important changes in information-seeking patterns during pandemics like COVID-19. Key questions we address are: (1) What is the relationship between the coronavirus outbreak and internet searches related to healthcare seeking, government support programs, media sources of different ideologies, planning around social activities, travel, and food, and new coronavirus-specific behaviors and concerns?; (2) How does the popularity of search terms differ across states and regions and can we explain these differences?; (3) Can we find distinct, tangible search patterns across states suggestive of policy gaps to inform pandemic response? (4) Does Google Trends data correlate with and potentially precede real-life events? We suggest strategic shifts for policy makers to improve the precision and effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) and recommend the development of a real-time dashboard as a decision-making tool. Methods used include trend analysis of US search data; geographic analyses of the differences in search popularity across US states during March 1st to April 15th, 2020; and Principal Component Analyses (PCA) to extract search patterns across states.


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