The Newcomers Cohort (South Carolina)
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Philip Nelson has collected data and informed South Carolinians about the virus in their state.
In March 2020, Nelson started a simple spreadsheet to collect daily data, but then quickly realized that he could use his computer science background to automate his work and expand the resources he provided.
Starting off, he didn’t know much about working with data or using code, but over time that changed.
He wrote scripts and learned to use data tools and libraries to help visualize the data, and then he started posting the information to his Twitter.
Over several months he learned how to use programming to pull large amounts of data from SC DHEC, visualize it, and then post it to twitter all within seconds of the data going live.
His work has garnered attention from state legislators. local media, and public health researchers.
“I care about accurately presenting the data in an accessible manner, and I want everyone to have access to data,” Nelson said. “Because DHEC doesn’t accessibly provide downloadable case history for the state and its counties, I provide CSVs and graphs of this data on my website.”
Philip has worked hard and learned many things in order to become a reliable source for South Carolina COVID19 data.
A few words from those who nominated Philip:
“As an investigative reporter his datasets have provided me leads on stories I wasn’t even thinking about, particularly the scale of COVID outbreak in South Carolina prisons. His willingness to push through and find new ways of analyzing data particularly in a rural southern state is unlike anything else I’ve seen.”
“I’m a retired biostatistician. When the pandemic hit, I started tracking SCDHEC data on my own. As soon as I found Philip’s data tracking, I quit doing my own. Philip posts summaries, points out trends, and presents it all in clear graphics, usually within minutes of SCDHEC’s daily data release. He points out inconsistencies in the official data, and does a better job than SCDHEC explaining the quirks in data collection. He does all this on his own time, while a full-time student at Winthrop. He has a knack for digging into data and turning it into user-friendly graphics, and the drive to get through the many technical issues of automating the process. He has a bright future ahead.”