What are COVID-19 Dashboards and Why Are They Important?
Over the last several months, government agencies across the US at the state, county, and city level have launched COVID-19 dashboards to provide up-to-date information about the pandemic in specific regions. However, there are notable differences in functionality, transparency, and overall effectiveness among these dashboards.
Dashboards typically include tools, metrics, and resources for residents, with the goal of helping public health agencies and residents improve awareness, vigilance, and accountability through transparency around the latest COVID-19 data. These up-to-date numbers also empower people to adjust behaviors, stay informed on restrictions, protocols, and safety guidelines, and access vital resources like testing sites and emergency relief. By making data and guidance widely available, public health authorities hope to encourage people to stay safe--and reduce risks for those around them. However, across state, city, and county-wide dashboards, there are notable differences in functionality, transparency, and overall effectiveness.
State COVID-19 Dashboards
Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard appears to serve as the main data source for most Florida counties and cities. While some school districts have their own dashboards, this indicates potential inconsistencies across Florida’s various databases. At face value, this COVID-19 dashboard offers data related to total case counts, COVID-positive residents, resident hospitalizations, and resident vs. non-resident deaths. The dashboard also includes graphs for new cases, resident deaths, and maps of various counties and their corresponding COVID data , all relatively easy to read and understand.
New York’s state dashboard uses different metrics than the Florida portal. While Albany County appears to have its own dashboard, Manhattan and New York County do not. Unlike Florida, New York provides the percentage of positive results, total persons tested, and total tested positive. Graph wise, the dashboard offers only the percentage of positive results. The New York dashboard also appears more difficult to read at first glance, with much of the available information not displayed effectively.
County COVID-19 Dashboards
Harris County, with a population of 4.7 million people, hosts a county-wide dashboard that incorporates data from the Texas statewide database. Compared to the Florida and New York state-wide dashboards, Harris County’s dashboard offers a wider range of data, including confirmed cases, active cases, recovered persons, number of deaths, Texas data, and global data. It also provides easy-to-read graphs that display demographic information, including breakdowns by age, sex, race, and ethnicity, and a COVID-19 ‘thermometer’ which provides a simple visualization of how the county is faring.
LA County’s dashboard, which serves 10 million people, also functions within a state that hosts its own database, similar to Harris County. Also like Harris County, this dashboard provides a wide range of data that is more specific to its population than a state dashboard provides. Its numbers include the number of cases, the number of deaths, an adjusted case rate, and an adjusted death rate. Its graphs remain simple, however, only visualizing cumulative cases and deaths, though the line of cumulative fatality rate allows the data to be easily understood and trackable in terms of the impact of COVID-19 and countywide progress.
City COVID-19 Dashboards
Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard is specific to only the city of Chicago and its 2.7 million people. It provides the current positivity rate, the number of tests performed, the number of confirmed cases, and daily cases; each of these numbers can be adjusted based on the date range. In terms of graphs, it displays the positivity rate and the tests performed relative to a line that indicates their respectives “targets,” which better contextualizes progress. Compared to the state and county dashboards, Chicago’s data reads as more specific, with a greater ability to track progress vs. goals, perhaps indicating a more sophisticated and data-driven response to the disease.
District of Columbia’s dashboard serves a population of about 705,000 people in a distinctive type of dashboard. This dashboard provides daily updates that list the total number of tests, total number of DC residents tested, total positive cases, total lives lost, and residents cleared from isolation. It then furnishes the same data in a set of line graphs, with adjustable time periods. These numbers are notably more specific than several state and county dashboards, allowing for specific and streamlined accountability of DC’s COVID-19 status. However, the data presented is not presented in a very intuitive or user-friendly manner, and other options for more information or access to resources are also more difficult to navigate.
COVID-19 dashboards have been essential to monitoring and managing communities’ response to the pandemic, a powerful demonstration of utilizing data to inform real-time decision-making and policy implementation. By giving residents access to wide-scale yet crucial information, governments are promoting transparency, accountability, and public awareness. What’s worth noting is that the increased availability and easier access to sophisticated data visualization tools has, in fact, led to greater adoption: from small school districts and college campuses to larger counties and metropolitan areas, adoption of public-facing dashboards has been remarkably swift and sustained.
While dashboards covering large geographies or populations (e.g. states, large counties) allow for a more uniform and collective orientation of important COVID-19 metrics and updates, dashboards from smaller authorities (e.g. colleges, towns, school districts) often supply their audiences with data and tools that are inherently more relevant to their lives and communities. Though there is a tradeoff between quality of presentation and specificity of data (as seen above), the emergence of localized COVID-19 dashboards has made it apparent that this tradeoff is often seen as a necessary one. Leaders of communities large and small have made it clear that the value of transparency and granular data is nothing short of vital in the fight against COVID-19.
If you’re interested in learning more about best practices in data standardization for organizations in your sector, please feel free to reach out to Anish Nagar (firstname.lastname@example.org). Anish is the CEO of Corecentra Solutions, a software company providing purpose-built digital solutions for socially conscious and outcomes-focused companies, foundations, nonprofits, and frontline government agencies.
Corecentra provides advanced digital tools for organizations to manage, monitor, and report their social performance and impact. We help socially-conscious companies, impact investors, foundations, nonprofits, and frontline government agencies manage portfolios and programs, aggregate and analyze data, and easily report outcomes to key stakeholders. By seamlessly integrating program management, budgeting & finance, stakeholder engagement, predictive analytics, and impact assessment, our products empower organizations to increase their social impact and deliver a quantified view of social performance to investors, donors, beneficiaries, employees, and communities.