It started in late 2021 with some tweets about bad Amazon reviews for Yankee Candles.
Could they be the canaries in the coal’s mind for the COVID surge?
Assistant Professor and Researcher at Northeastern University Nick Beauchamp was curious.
He watched social media influence COVID-19 data. His next hypothesis involved the COVID symptom of anosmia, or loss of smell.
“I took a bunch of screening data, counted the no-smell or no-smell references, and kind of shared a plot of that curve, which really matches the COVID curve,” Beauchamp said.
He then looked beyond candles, adding information about perfumes and finally publishing their findings.
“I’m trying, in the project, to see if it holds for perfume. Yes, it holds for perfume… Does it hold for the flu? No, it doesn’t hold for the flu. when you control for the kind of seasonality and COVID and candle purchases and complaints? Yes , it seems to survive,” Beauchamp continued.
In his 2021 results, cases of COVID predicted negative reviews, but negative reviews did not predict cases.
SEE MORE: Survivors of COVID-19 continue to face lingering symptoms
“It’s possible, or plausible, that the increase in complaints was actually due to COVID, you know, with all the usual caveats, but that the reviews themselves weren’t very good at alerting us when cases were on the rise,” Beauchamp said.
He looked at the numbers again in June 2022 and found that the bad reviews came out and then the number of cases increased.
Beauchamp revisited the numbers this month. He says that until now, in October, bad reviews have been on the rise over the past two months, cases have remained flat or declined over the same period.
Important to note: Case tracking was influenced by factors such as home testing. The CDC also moved from daily numbers of cases and deaths to weekly numbers.
Health experts predict a modest autumn-winter wave, which will reduce the current increase in cases in Europe.
Meanwhile, Beauchamp says the candle data is just interesting and funny, nothing more. But the research affected how his family thought about health.
“We haven’t sniffed the candles to test ourselves, but, you know, we’re pretty careful — and I think, probably because I spend time working on this — more careful than the average household,” he said.
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