Seven types of data guiding COVID-19 decision-making as we move from response to recovery
The rate of spread of COVID-19 varies from state to state, with some successfully flattening the curve while others still await peak infection levels. As governors wrestle with how and when to begin reopening businesses and easing shelter-in-place orders, they must lean on reliable, accurate, and timely data to take decisive action that will ultimately determine the effects on the economy and public health.
The difficult decisions governors make must balance the current health threat and potential for future COVID-19 flare-ups with the extreme economic impacts on business and citizens. Those decisions impact the way resources are allocated, which businesses are reopened, who goes back to work and the ability to anticipate and even prevent a repeat of the crisis in the future. Perhaps most importantly, those decisions may determine how drastic and lasting the effects of the pandemic will be on each state’s economy now and moving forward.
To make these decisions effectively, governors will have to tangle with questions like: Who is sick? What are the current and future resource gaps? Where should I allocate precious state and federal support resources? Where and how might the virus spread next? Which communities are in greatest distress? Is there potential for crime, and where is it taking place? Who is unemployed, and where do they live? Which industry sectors of my state have been hit most drastically, or represent a disproportionate share of the unemployment uptick? Are there policy measures I can take specifically aimed at the hardest-hit areas of the economy?
Our nation’s governors have access to data to help answer these questions and provide a better understanding of the health of their communities. Unfortunately, the lightweight dashboards most have available were built for other purposes, and cannot integrate and synthesize all of the available and relevant data in a timely manner to facilitate a meaningful and nimble response. They also lack the predictive, simulation and at-scale data analysis capabilities required to truly enhance decision-making.
There are seven critical categories of data that dashboards must incorporate to deliver optimal situational awareness, drawing from state agencies and local governments. By aggregating this data to provide insights on the trajectory of the virus, complemented by the counsel of public health experts, governors will have the best, most accurate information available to inform the monumental decisions that are being made to keep people safe and restart the economy.
Public health data: Leaders need to have quick access to the latest tally of confirmed cases and recoveries in their own states, as well as neighboring states and population centers, broken down by demographics. That information is essential to inform policies on closings and other preventive measures, and when to augment or reverse them. Sharing this information widely allows residents to stay informed about which communities are at risk and which are most disproportionately impacted. The transparency of this data lets residents and policymakers alike take proper precautionary measures within their district, lowering the risk that the virus will spread further or return later in the year.
Medical resources: Aside from tracking the scope of the disease itself, having access to data on the medical personnel and resources available to treat the spread of the virus is perhaps just as important. This information includes the number and location of clinicians, current stocks of critical medical equipment such as masks and ventilators, and where those supplies are needed most. Some states and communities have not seen the worst yet. Access to this data, along with forecasting abilities, can lessen the potential for supply shortages at hospitals and care facilities in critical need.
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