U.S. Vulnerability Mapping

New pandemic data is released daily and a quick search for “COVID-19 data” provides millions of results and countless tools. How do you determine if the data gives you an accurate, comprehensive view of your community? How do you create action plans from the data for your community? Enter the RTI COVID-19 Data Insights Tool.

Currently, people don’t have the context they need about COVID-19 at the community-level to decide how to modulate their lives during this time. On a larger scale, public health agencies and businesses may not have the localized situational awareness they need to make decisions that will impact the communities they serve. Since each community and population are unique, one must have a hyper-localized view of the data to extract meaningful insights to inform future responses.

Our tool fills a gap in a crowded marketplace

Everyone is evaluating data at the country, state, and county levels. Most data just scrapes the surface. Few dashboards assess how the virus is manifesting based on socio-economic factors.

With the RTI COVID-19 Data Insights tool, this gap in the market is being fulfilled. The national decision-support tool gives policymakers and those in charge of the public health crisis response access to COVID-19 data and the ability to cross-compare it with socio-economic vulnerability factors, as well as RTI SynthPop™ data, to deliver hyperlocal insights. Users receive real-time, community-level detail to provide a more accurate view of what is happening now and a statistically precise way to evaluate forward-looking projections.

Example of visualizing where to strategically place testing resources. Communities may benefit by prioritizing testing resources in high doubling time areas (red) and clusters of young people (blue dots).

So how does the RTI COVID-19 Data Insights tool work?

As positive cases increase, contact tracing becomes an even more critical factor in slowing the spread. The number of individuals that tracers need to contact each day quickly outpaces what can realistically be accomplished – demand outweighs supply. It becomes a game of needing to prioritize contact tracing efforts to maximize impact.

With the COVID-19 Data Insights tool, you can overlay CDC Social Vulnerability Index data with SynthPop households with more than six individuals. This highlights areas of highly vulnerable populations with areas where the risk of infection may be higher.

By comparing and visualizing this data at the census tract level, you can work with your contact tracers to strategically prioritize tracing efforts and even determine the method of tracing that makes the most sense. For instance, you may decide you should stick to remote contact methods for areas of hot spots and deploy field staff where there is less risk.

Along with contact tracing, RTI’s experts have pre-populated the tool with other priority use cases such as testing strategically and risk factors for re-opening businesses. Users can familiarize themselves with the tool by exploring these use cases or adjust the datasets based on your local challenges.

Contact Tracing Visualization Example

Example of visualizing where to prioritize contact tracing efforts. Communities may benefit by prioritizing contact tracing resources in areas of high vulnerability (red) and areas where there are large households (blue dots).

COVID-19 risk changes daily

As the pandemic evolves, timely information is invaluable in the race to contain the virus. Levels of risk vary from day to day across communities. To address the dynamics of this pandemic, the tool merges data from multiple sources (CDC SVI, Population Density, and Poverty) and real-time epidemiological trends (doubling time and Effective R) and observations (total cases and total deaths). The measures are weighted and computed into a simple composite ranking of all counties in the United States, and all counties within each state. The result is a daily risk ranking at the state and national level.

By combining the expertise of data scientists and epidemiologists with this innovative technology, you can better prioritize valuable resources and make data-driven decisions to respond to COVID-19 and strategically plan for the future.

Disclaimer: This piece was written by Pia MacDonald (Senior Director, Applied Public Health Research), James Rineer (Director, Geospatial Science and Technology), and Helen L. Jang (Senior Director, RTI Merge & Project Catapult) to share perspectives on a topic of interest. Expression of opinions within are those of the author or authors.