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UK’s COVID-19 risk prediction algorithm had a great start, but experts fear it won’t last

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An algorithm accurately predicted the risk of someone with COVID-19 becoming seriously ill during the first wave of the pandemic in England, according to new research.

The British government-backed model was developed using anonymized data from more than 8 million adults in 1,205 general practices. It then analyzed factors including a person’s age, ethnicity, level of deprivation, body mass index, and existing medical conditions to predict their chance of catching COVID-19 and then dying or being hospitalized.

The algorithm was tested on two sets of anonymized data, from January to April 2020 and from May 2020 to June 2020, to evaluate whether it could accurately predict who would develop a severe illness. A study published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal concluded that it “performed well” in forecasting risks of deaths and hospital admissions due to COVID-19.  

The researchers found that the 5% of people predicted to be at greatest risk accounted for 75% of the deaths from COVID-19. The results also support existing evidence that people who are male, from ethnic minority backgrounds, and over 70 are at high risk of severe outcomes from infection.

[Read: What audience intelligence data tells us about the 2020 US presidential election]

Of those who died, 57.4% were male; 16.7% were from ethnic minority backgrounds; 82.5% were aged 70 and over; 32.3% had type 2 diabetes; 29.9% had dementia; and 23.6% were identified as living in a care home.

The study authors acknowledge that the results should be interpreted with caution as COVID-19 infection rates and prevention measures will change over time. But they add that the model can be updated as the pandemic evolves.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London will now help implement the model in east London general practices — which cover a population of around 2 million —  to assist them in shielding patients, managing current infections, and prioritizing future vaccination programs.

However, medical experts warned that the algorithm is missing the data and implementation plan it needs to be a useful tool for managing the second wave of the pandemic.

“The model does not know who actually was exposed to or was infected by the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Derek Hill, professor of medical imaging at University College London.

“The model has no information about individuals’ behavior, such as whether they self-isolated, or worked in a high-risk job, washed their hands properly, or wore a mask, nor of whether there was lots of COVID-19 infections in an individual’s neighborhood. These missing data are arguably more important than the data included in the model at predicting who will get serious COVID-19.”

In its present form, the algorithm appears more useful for understanding the first wave than for managing the second.

Published October 21, 2020 — 13:03 UTC

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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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Apple will replace AirPods Pro for free with faulty noise cancellation, static or crackling

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Today, exactly one year after Apple first launched the AirPods Pro — and thus the same day the very first AirPods Pro owners will see their one-year warranties expire — Apple has launched a repair program that offers free repairs or replacements for another whole year if your AirPods Pro experience issues with noise cancellation or static.

Specifically, Apple will fix:

Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone

Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

Apple says only a “small percentage of AirPods Pro” are affected by the issues, but it apparently wasn’t just an early batch — Apple says affected units were manufactured “before October 2020,” meaning every AirPods Pro ever made might be eligible. That’s quite a recall if so. Apple says it will repair faulty AirPods Pro for two years after you first buy them.

We’ve heard complaints about degraded noise cancellation before, and at least one Verge editor has replaced their AirPods Pro under warranty. It’s nice to hear that Apple isn’t just cutting buyers off as soon as that warranty expires.

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This 55″ 4K TCL Smart TV Hangs on Your Wall for $200

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

TCL 55″ S434 4K Smart TV | $200 | Best Buy

Best Buy has an insane deal going for a brand new 55″ 4K TCL smart TV. It’s the S434, which is pretty baseline for TCL’s lineup, but at just $200, there’s little to complain about. TCL’s panels are plenty sharp and accurate, and with this set, you’ll get HDR10 compliance for enhanced color and brightness in supported games and video content. This model has Android TV onboard for all your app needs, and with an included voice remote, all your favorite content is just a shout away with the help of Google Assistant.

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