Inspiration

The reason I created a texting service is to ensure that even those without Internet can access the latest stats on COVID in their region. There are currently a lot of numbers and resources on many different websites, but they are not accessible to those without Internet access.

According to a 2019 Pew Research survey, 10% of Americans (nearly 33 million people) do not use the Internet. In Louisiana, over 400,000 people do not have access to a wired connection capable of 25mbps download speeds, and 262,000 people do not have any wired Internet providers available where they live.

However, most people have texting, and a service like this would make it easier to access the most up-to-date COVID numbers for the areas that you care most about - at the state level as well as at the local (parish) level.

Note: Louisiana currently has a texting service (text LACOVID to 898211), but it focuses more on recent state-wide announcements, and often contains links, which may not be accessible to those without Internet connection. Further, it doesn't tell you the most up-to-date numbers on COVID in your region, which is very pertinent residents as you increasingly self-quarantine.

What it does

This is a texting service that allows you stay updated on the COVID-19 statistics for your region.

You can query the latest coronavirus statistics on cases (confirmed, recovered, and deaths) at a global-level, country-level, and US state-level. Further, you can get the latest coronavirus statistics for each parish in Louisiana (my home state). Eventually, I'd like to support more granular specificity per region, but for now I just stuck with one state.

How I built it

I used Twilio, Python, and Flask to run my service. I am hosting on Heroku. I am calling the Bing API to get the most recent covid numbers.

Challenges I ran into

I tried out a lot of different covid APIs and found that many of the numbers were inconsistent with each other. Eventually I settled on the Bing API because it was the most consistent in terms of updating, numbers, and formatting.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

The texting service is being hosted on Prod so can be accessed from any phone number in the US!

What I learned

I learned to create a Flask app e2e and hosting on heroku. I also learned that there are a LOT of different teams/resources out there working on different corona APIs that will provide the most up to date information, but they are not all necessarily consistent.

What's next for Covid Texting Service

I would like to be able to support more than just providing the bare numbers, but I also don't want to overload the service and cloud the simple and main use case of providing numbers. I would also like to add details on what percent (day to day) increase each region has experienced in terms of deaths/cases.

Source

For more details, check out my Github page.

Also, you can try out the service yourself by texting +12252692499.

Note: This number is currently a random number generated by Twilio. Eventually I'd like to have a short code that is easier to remember and text (and less likely to be categorized as spam); however, that was expensive (over a thousand dollars) and I didn't want to purchase it quite yet.

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