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April 27, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jamey Dunn-Thomason
               jdunn3@uillinois.edu
               (217) 300-8409

 

IGPA COVID-19 task force releases data visualization tool as part of effort to measure
human toll of the pandemic 

Users can map populations considered more vulnerable to the virus and recession

URBANA — The University of Illinois System’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) has partnered with the University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) Urban Data Visualization Lab to release a tool that maps key information related to populations and entities more vulnerable to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Policy Spotlight released today, titled Visualizing Vulnerability and Capturing the Pandemic’s Human Toll, is the first in a series from IGPA’s Task Force on the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic. These Policy Spotlights will drill down on specific dimensions of the challenges facing Illinois and respond to policy questions raised by the broader reports issued by the task force. This spotlight builds on a report, released last week, from the Community and Family Resilience Impact Group.

“Some Illinoisans are experiencing a double whammy. They are vulnerable both to the virus itself and to the economic fallout that is happening as our country plunges into a recession. Visualizing these overlapping vulnerabilities lays bare vital moral considerations,” said IGPA Director Robin Fretwell Wilson. “This tool can help to anticipate needs and guide policy decisions that effectively address them. We must use this information as a guardrail, so that those with the least are not left to disproportionately bear the brunt of the pandemic.”

The Policy Spotlight focuses on helping Illinois develop a systematic understanding of what the pandemic has meant for people’s lives, so these human costs can also be a part of any decision-making processes, along with public health information and broader economic data.

As part of that effort, IGPA and the Urban Data Visualization Lab worked together to develop maps that more clearly identify vulnerabilities, both to the virus and to the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic.

“These unique and granular datasets allow users to quickly pinpoint the location of small businesses, nursing homes or neighborhoods that are likely the most vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Ahoura Zandiatashbar, a geo-data scientist at the Urban Data Visualization Lab. “Having the ability to visualize the vulnerability of communities to COVID-19 through these mapping tools could help support responsive decision-making and prompt actions from nonprofits, foundations and governments.” Zandiatashbar created the maps along with PhD student Anton Rozhkov.

 
 This map shows small and medium businesses and poverty rates. Click to access mapping tool.
 

Users can see where populations that are considered more vulnerable to the virus are concentrated in the state.

They can also overlay information, like poverty rates and businesses by size, to see areas that could be especially at risk to the economic toll.

A county or census tract with high poverty rates and a large number of small businesses, for example, might be less able to weather the recession.

The information provided about individual businesses can help journalists, public officials and community groups connect with them to find out more about their specific challenges.

The maps are informed with data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2018 five-year demographic estimates and the Infogroup database, which was updated in 2018.

“These maps grew out of the Urban Data Visualization Lab’s Map the Count project to support Illinois' outreach efforts for Census 2020, funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services. This effort centers around reaching hard-to-count populations, many of which are also the most vulnerable to this disease,” said Moira Zellner, director of the Urban Data Visualization Lab, which is part of UIC’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs.

The maps are an early step in IGPA’s efforts to capture information about the human toll of the pandemic. In the coming weeks, IGPA expects to debut other measures including a periodic survey of public health experts, economists and vulnerability scholars about when and how to reopen the state’s economy, regularly scheduled interviews with leaders of impacted vulnerable communities, and knowledge drawn from the experiences of ordinary individuals, who will document the impact of the COVID-19 on their lives through videos and journals recorded on their cell phones. 

As reports from the IGPA Task Force on the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic are released, they will be available on the task force’s webpage

About the Institute of Government and Public Affairs
IGPA seeks to improve public policy discussion through non-partisan, evidence-based research and public engagement in Illinois. Learn more at igpa.uillinois.edu and follow @IllinoisIGPA for the latest updates.

 
 
 
 
 

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