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New COVID-19 Data Tool from RTI International Will Help Public Health Officials Strategize Contact Tracing, Testing, Vaccine Distribution and Estimate Virus Immunity

Researchers are advocating for local health officials and key stakeholders across the U.S. to provide underlying local COVID-19 case data and other estimates

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Researchers at RTI International (RTI), a nonprofit research institute, have released a new data driven COVID-19 tool designed to help federal, state, and local public health officials and key stakeholders make informed decisions on how to prioritize important response efforts like contact tracing, placement of testing sites and vaccine distribution. The publicly available tool allows users to overlay local COVID-19 data with zip code information and then pair it with a series of local datasets including demographic trends, mortality trends, doubling time, estimated immunity and more.

The tool, which is updated daily with case data from Johns Hopkins, is the only tool freely available to provide a mirrored mock-up of the U.S. population using an original data layer, called RTI SynthPop™. The RTI SynthPop layer was built to map actual household, income and demographic data across the U.S. with the intention of helping public health officials make strategic choices. By using the RTI SynthPop layer, the map could also be used to accurately inform re-opening plans, closure plans or upcoming holiday travel.

“This is a unique tool designed specifically for public health officials to make the most of their case data for strategic decisions about their COVID-19 response. It is focused on using data for epidemiologic insights beyond what is available with census data, and other public data sets. With the addition of the RTI SynthPop, we add hyper-local demographic, social, and economic data to epidemiological estimates not available elsewhere,” said Pia MacDonald, Ph.D., MPH, senior infectious disease epidemiologist at RTI. “Our goal is to help public health officials, community stakeholders and even individuals and companies to make informed, data driven decisions by highlighting COVID-19 hotspots and visualizing key indicators on a robust map.”

If public health agencies provide COVID-19 case data, such as cases by zip-code, RTI researchers can then provide hyper-local COVID-19 epidemiological insights to inform strategic localized response plans. One such application would be to help public health officials make vaccine distribution plan, when a vaccine becomes available, and decide where to ship doses based on factors such as vulnerable populations, and immunity estimations within age-related subgroups.

“When vaccine distribution begins across the U.S. it will be important to provide state health experts with precise data to get an estimate of which areas and age-groups are most susceptible, or immune, to the COVID-19,” said MacDonald. “We see the tool being able to fit that need, while simultaneously evolving to meet the needs of each specific community.”

The tool is publicly available online and is updated daily.

For more information or to request an interview with Dr. Pia MacDonald contact: news@rti.org

Click here to read more about the tool.