Sara Anne Willette

The Provocateurs Cohort (Iowa)

Only a handful of states made data access and transparency during the early days of COVID-19 as difficult as Iowa.

Sara Anne Willette (Iowa)

Even now, Iowa remains one of the few states that does not provide data about COVID-19 cases in schools.

But Sara Anne Willette does.

Sara invested all her efforts toward building the Iowa COVID-19 Tracker site early in the pandemic, and continues to provide the public with all of the data the state makes available in an easily-consumable, accessible and transparent way.

For Sara, running the site and keeping Iowans informed is personal; of the first three cases announced in the state, Sara personally knew two of them.

“I track Iowa’s COVID-19 data for two reasons,” she said. “First, the daily data presented by the State of Iowa contains numerous errors and lacks accessibility. The majority of the data must be hand-scraped, a task to which most working Iowans are unable to devote hours per day. Second, as a disabled American with Common Variable Immune Deficiency, I am in a unique position to assist as many Iowans as possible with risk assessment regarding infectious pathogens in their communities and schools.”

Sara made enemies within her state government and her own political party by pressing for more COVID-19 data access and transparency.

The Iowa Governor, Kim Reynolds, has faced public outrage over the handling of COVID-19 and school reopening. Reynolds also falsely claimed at one point that there was science “on both sides” of mask safety, and her political proximity to Donald Trump often muddied public health messaging during the pandemic in her state.

Reynolds allegedly called Sara an “excel warrior” during a press conference last May, disparaging her and others for tracking and reporting cases in the state.

Now, Iowans face a “hunger-games” type vaccine rollout, with seniors fighting for survival in a poorly managed, publicly shamed vaccine distribution plan.

Sara continues to update her data daily, with help from several of her graduate students at Iowa State University who she hired to assist with the project.

A few words from those who nominated Sara:

“Sara has been tracking data since last March, and has been especially important given that the data published by our state has been incorrect, manipulated, and misleading. The view we have on our State’s official website is not current, so does not reflect current conditions. Sara provides data updates by county twice a day, and also data for school districts and colleges and universities in the state. Her transparency is unparalleled.”

“Sara has been accessible and has been rooting out inconsistencies this whole time. She reports honestly to Iowa in real time. She is a hero. She has been silenced and has been relentless with our science denying Governor.”

“Sara began by tracking the data released by the Iowa Dept of Public Health and presenting it in more accessible ways on her own web site. She has contacted the state DPH to try to get them to compute test positivity rates correctly (they still won’t). She independently tracks data on infections and quarantines among school students and staff, which the state does not do in a meaningful way.”

Click here to follow Sara on Twitter.

Click here to see Sara’s website.

2 thoughts on “Sara Anne Willette

  1. We used Sara’s data when we realized the State of Iowa IDPH was reporting incorrect statistical percentages. We believe her “true” database reporting saved the lives of many vulnerable Iowans by giving non-manipulated mathematical computations on a daily basis.

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  2. When covid hit the US I quickly realized my worst nightmare had arrived. I have a son with a primary immune deficiency and always feared a pandemic eventually happening. I knew that we couldn’t trust the truth about what was happening from the president and I knew Kim Reynolds was lying about how bad things were becoming in Iowa. When I read Sara’s profile on Facebook and it said she too had a primary immune deficiency, I quickly sent a friend request. Sara Anne has helped keep my son alive by reporting honest numbers about covid and keeping things real for all Iowans. The day I became her Facebook friend I would have never known that I made a real friend, who’s heart is so big, kind, empathetic, brave, and intelligent. When it’s safe she’s the first person that I’m taking my son to go see so we can hug her. Covid brought a lot of heartache to many people but one positive thing that it has brought to me is Sara Anne and I’m so thankful for her. Sara has helped me in more ways then just providing honest numbers for covid that have helped me make decisions to navigate this pandemic keeping my son healthy . She has been a light in the darkness, and hope for me when I’ve felt hopeless. Sara Anne Willett is the epitome of courage in a state that is quickly becoming one of the most suppressive, hateful states in the US. Her fortitude has been inspiring and Iowa is fortunate too have her here.

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