A new website launched last week provides up-to-date data and forecasts regarding COVID-19 for every county in the United States.
This comes as the Trump administration recently ordered hospitals to send data related to COVID-19 to a central database in Washington instead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, raising concerns about transparency and that data on COVID-19 could become less accessible to the public.
The new website designed by Prospect 33, a data and financial services consultancy, uploads daily data from the John Hopkins University COVID-19 GitHub site and allows users to search for COVID-19 data by individual county. Information provided on the website includes county population, cumulative reported cases, cumulative reported deaths, and the estimated Rt—which is the average number of people infected by an infectious person and a key measure of how fast the virus is growing.
“Until we get a vaccine for any pandemic, if there’s any key solution for this, it boils down to data,” said Tom Spouse, CEO of Prospect 33. “The ambition here is really to try to make sense of the data.”
A key feature of the website is that it allows users to construct a four-month projection of active cases in their county, taking into account different levels of social distancing.
For example, looking at Maricopa County in Arizona—a current hotspot for COVID-19—and using data updated on July 20, the current cumulative reported cases of COVID-19 is listed at 96,711 and the current cumulative reported deaths is listed at 1,485. Using the four-month projection and taking into account no social distancing efforts, the number of projected deaths after four months is listed at 26,901—an increase of 25,416. When adding factors of social distancing into the model, the number of projected deaths drops to 3,812, or an increase of 2,327.
“It’s way more informative then just looking at a case count in a county or hospitalizations because by seeing the progression of the disease over time, even though you can argue that it’s a statistical model, it’s speculative, but at least it gives you a sense of the dynamics of the disease,” said David Neuwirth, leader of the project team behind the model.
According to the website, a proprietary regression model is used to create the first three weeks of the projection and a SIR simulation is used for the next 100 days. The website also notes that the model’s projection is not definitive, but merely meant to present a scenario of what could happen over a period of four months—taking into account certain assumptions about viral spread, mortality, and recovery.
Neuwirth said ultimately the goal of the website is to continue the dialogue about COVID-19 locally among communities, and help people make more informed and responsible decisions about how they interact in their day to day lives.
“I started thinking about this sort of as social action,” Neuwirth said. “Using citizen science to give people information about the pandemic so that they can make decisions, they can put pressure on government officials, they can maintain vigilance.”