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U.S. Researchers Utilise Data to Map Pandemic’s Impact

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory released interactive indices, analyses, and maps that provide a detailed understanding of the socio-economic effects of the novel coronavirus outbreak. The public now has access to a series of data and analysis resources designed to support and inform long-term COVID-19 recovery efforts across the U.S.

The data and analysis are helping to guide federal recovery efforts, from informing federal engagement efforts with affected communities to helping target delivery of aid. The laboratory developed these resources to help federal agencies understand where impacts are most acute (down to the county level), and which demographic groups and facets of the economy may require recovery support, such as employment, housing stability, public sector services

Researchers and experts at Argonne immediately went to work, seeking advice and data from federal agencies that would likely be using these data and analyses. Argonne built a web-based portal, gathered more than 100 data sources, and developed an initial set of analyses in less than a month. They do comparisons between pre-and post-pandemic data sets with the help of economists, infrastructure analysts, and other experts. Through input from interagency coordination, Argonne has expanded the scope of data collection and analysis based on agency needs.

One interactive map lets one zoom in on any of the more than 3,000 U.S. counties to instantly generate a shareable report on how, month by month since January 2020, the pandemic has impacted gross domestic product in that particular area. Another map displays the pandemic’s impact on state and local government revenues. Those bodies often are required to match funds to receive federal aid.

People can also access a Housing Stability Index that reveals the most impacted county in the country: Bronx, New York, where 9% more households are housing insecure than before the pandemic. The County High-Level Economic Recovery and Resilience Index Scorecard calculates which counties within a state are the most (and least) financially vulnerable based on indicators such as government revenue impacts and social vulnerability. The Internet Access Index highlights household accessibility to broadband, providing insight into areas where distance-learning or telehealth services may be challenging.

A huge analysis effort is important due to the overwhelming scale of the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers tried to understand what’s happening in the entire United States, including all 50 states and all the territories in the Atlantic and Pacific, in all the counties and all the communities. Therefore, they have been gathering the data sources and developing products to make sense of the situation. The data will provide clarity, not just as a snapshot in time but in terms of how the pandemic is changing over time.

The data they are collecting is trying to give people perspective on the starting point for the recovery. It also gives them the information they need to develop a road map moving forward as to how to rebuild the economy, create jobs, help people stay in their housing, and make communities less susceptible to the next pandemic.

Other U.S. researchers have also been using data by utilising an artificial intelligence (AI) tool to provide insights into people’s online behaviour. As reported by OpenGov Asia, A research project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) develops an online tool called CitizenHelper. This tool can sort through millions of tweets to identify behaviours that could assist emergency agencies and give them an understanding of the population’s attitudes.

The U.S. researchers specifically use this tool to gain insight into people’s response to COVID-19 in the Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) area. The tool uses artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to filter the posts and then determine the relevance and information level of each tweet.

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