VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – It was Margaret Mead who once said “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.” And it was the fight against COVID-19 that inspired a vision from a 17-year-old junior at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach.
“To see if we can make a website where anyone who could need a test can find out where they could get one,” explained Yoland Gao.
Gao is one of two dozen students who were supposed to meet at MIT this summer with the Research Science Institute. But the coronavirus pandemic changed those plans. So, he and his group met virtually, to develop the website https://findcovidtests.com/
“You look at the other countries that came before us that had the outbreak before us, and in their countries the most effective way to contain the outbreak was to test anyone that came into contact with anyone who was positive for COVID-19,” said Gao.
It’s as simple as plugging in your address. Then you get a list of participating sites that offer testing. Gao and his group have plugged in testing sites for all 50 states, and he told 10 On Your Side it’s updated about every two days.
“There were a lot of websites out there, but most of them did not have complete data, or they had it for just one area. So I was actually surprised that no one had come up with the idea of combining all these websites into one.”
Gao wants to continue working to combine computer science technology and medicine, and it may be safe to say that he and his group of gifted students are off to a strong start.
Gao says it was a team effort. “Many others in the program helped me find test sites because we’re spread out all across the country, so we were able to find the local test sites within our areas and then combine them.”
Gao also says he and his group have made contacts about a possible partnership but he says talks “are in the very early stages, so I don’t have very many other details.”
But those early stages can lead to great change brought about by a small group of determined students.
In related news, the Virginia Department of Health launched a new website on Monday that also includes an interactive map to locate testing sites. VDH says testing may be available at other doctor offices, pharmacies and health care clinics not included on their map.
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