The Provocateurs Cohort (California)
As a Stanford University physician with more than a decade of experience working with health data, Dr. Jorge Caballero could easily fit into both the specialists and the professionals groups of our awards program. His work during COVID-19 would indeed make him a finalist in either of those cohorts.
Dr. Caballero’s advocacy for data access and transparency, and his continued commitment to communicating the racial and ethnic disparities in testing, cases and vaccinations shown in the data, makes him stand out as a Provocateur.
In March 2020, Dr. Caballero cofounded Coders against Covid, a volunteer group that builds tech solutions to address the most pressing needs of those affected by COVID-19, challenging his local, state and federal officials to step up.
Dr. Caballero built the first nation-wide COVID-19 testing site directory in mid-March 2020, before most states even had comprehensive lists of their own testing site facilities.
Shortly thereafter, Coders against Covid joined FEMA’s crowdsourcing initiative, and were connected with GISCorps, a volunteer group of geospatial information specialists. The partnership built the most comprehensive database of COVID-19 testing locations in the country, providing maps and tools to find your nearest testing site, operations hours, appointment scheduling, and more.
Dr. Caballero also uses the power of his position and his Twitter account to share data and information about the state of Coronavirus in California and across the country on a daily basis. He keeps up with data in Arizona and Nevada, even sharing the work of our other COVID-19 Data Hero Award nominees:
When California lifted its curfew and stay-at-home orders in January, Dr. Caballero made sure the public was aware that the data did not support such a move.
“Of course, all that flies out the window when it comes to extended contact that’s unmasked, as one might expect from, say, outdoor dining. It’s exactly that paradox that prompted an angry tweetstorm from Stanford doctor Jorge A. Caballero, who says that “The data does NOT support lifting restrictions— this would be Newsom caving to political pressure, again,” perhaps referring to an anti-vaccination/Republican-led recall effort against the governor. Caballero warns that even now, the devastating surge in Southern California “is moving up the state: through the central valley and into the SF Bay Area.”San Francisco, Jan. 25, 2021
When California spent $62.5 million on a contract with Verily – a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet – which led Trump to erroneously claim Google was building a site to help Americans find testing locations (a site Dr. Caballero would end up creating), Dr. Caballero stepped up and spoke out.
But the [Verily] partnership has also faced criticism from public health experts from the start, and left some elected officials in California frustrated by what they describe as a misguided approach to testing vulnerable communities.
Dr. Jorge Caballero, a Stanford physician and co-founder of the public testing database Coders against COVID, began warning CDPH contacts in April that poorer areas remained underserved by state testing sites. As he fielded requests in Spanish for help with the platform, it seemed that Verily wasn’t “nimble enough to address the demand and the evolution of the demand,” Caballero said.
“This whole strategy was just sort of backwards from the get-go,” Caballero said. “Why were we spending this money if it wasn’t solving problems, and it was creating additional problems?”Mercury News, Feb. 25, 2021
Not one to play partisan politics, Dr. Caballero calls out, defends, and makes policy recommendations to all of the science and data-backed decisions made across the country. His advocacy, insight and persistent communications about what the data tells us has impacted communities across the country, saving countless lives in the process.
A few words from those who nominated Dr. Caballero:
“If everyone would have just listened to him from the start, we would all be so much better off. California has made little effort to work with Hispanic communities, to communicate data with us regularly. It’s like we don’t matter. We’re dying and we don’t matter. The only person who seems to care is the doctor.” [Note: This submission was translated from Spanish]
“Jorge’s reputation as a physician, a scientist, as the “Data-driven MD,” could not be over-stated. I’ve never met a man who has worked harder to ensure accurate information reaches the public, that the accurate information is advocated for, and that the activism results in meaningful discussion and, hopefully, policy change. No one else could possibly be more worthy of a Data Hero Award than Jorge Caballero.”