• The CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker bot is now live. 
  • The bot, which was built with the help of Microsoft, analyzes your symptoms and recommends further measures. If your symptoms are severe or if you have underlying health conditions, the system will recommend more urgent care than if you are healthy overall and have mild symptoms. 
  • The CDC hopes the bot can ease the burden on healthcare systems across the country that are dealing with mild cases when those individuals should be healing up at home. 
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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just launched a new publicly available bot capable of analyzing symptoms and recommending the best course of action. The bot’s name is Clara, and the CDC calls it a “Coronavirus Self-Checker.”

The bot, which was made as part of a partnership between the CDC and Microsoft, uses Microsoft’s Azure Healthcare Bot framework. It’s essentially a digital flow chart, with responses leading to new questions and eventually a recommendation on how an individual should proceed. At a time when getting ahold of a doctor is challenging, even over the phone, it could help to ease fears and manage the public’s flood of questions about how they’re feeling.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep across the globe, one of the biggest strains on the healthcare system isn’t confirmed COVID-19 cases, but patients with mild cold or flu-like symptoms who fear they may have the virus. In most areas, the vast majority of people tested are negative, meaning that doctors healthcare workers are spending far too much time working with patients who should be at home resting, rather than clogging up clinics and hospitals.

“The need to screen patients with any number of cold or flu-like symptoms — to determine who has high enough risk factors to need access to limited medical resources and which people may more safely care for themselves at home — is a bottleneck that threatens to overwhelm health systems coping with the crisis,” Microsoft said in a press release.

The CDC’s new bot makes it clear when a person should or shouldn’t seek medical attention for a suspected coronavirus infection. Put simply, if you only have a cough or runny nose or sore throat, the bot will recommend home isolation and a simple phone call to a clinic for further guidance. In most of these cases, the person will be asked to stay home and recover. Chances are slim that these patients have the novel coronavirus, but even if they do, they won’t require in-person medical attention unless their symptoms become severe.

Via the CDC:

Not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. Here is some information that might help in making decisions about seeking care or testing.

  • Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home.
  • There is no treatment specifically approved for this virus.
  • Testing results may be helpful to inform decision-making about who you come in contact with.

Knowing who has the virus and who doesn’t is a powerful tool to halt its spread, but overwhelming the healthcare system with minor cases will only serve to make it more difficult for severe cases to be seen and treated in a timely manner.

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones, and future tech. Most recently, Mike served as Tech Editor at The Daily Dot, and has been featured in USA Today, Time.com, and countless other web and print outlets. His love of reporting is second only to his gaming addiction.