Alanna Bortlin

The Provocateurs Cohort (Pennsylvania)

Alanna Bortolin (Pennsylvania)

I started tracking data very early on, watching to see how far behind Italy that New York was tracking. As it spread to Pennsylvania I started to track that as well, and ultimately added York County to understand the pandemic picture at the micro level locally.

York County is not near any major metropolitan area, and therefore following the trends out of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or Baltimore were interesting but not particularly helpful. I hoped major data sources would track county-level details, but it came slowly and not in as much detail as I wanted.

Our local and regional media provide raw daily case and death numbers without much additional context, if any, and our county government provides only such woefully inadequate and misleading data that it is more dangerous than helpful. Though I started tracking for my own understanding, as I shared on social media I learned that there was some demand for this information.

Soon enough it was being hung daily in the COVID Command Center of our largest hospital. It was then that I recognized the value of sharing the information publicly each day for the broader community using the key metrics for understanding: cases, deaths, positivity rate, and hospitalizations. The work has naturally evolved as more information became available, adding things such as the transmission levels that schools were to use to make instructional decisions and including a summary of 3-4 key news updates of the day as new information was coming at an alarming rate.

As the daily report can become mundane, I’ve tried to create additional visualizations to offer better context to the situation. Weekly I show ZIP code cases per capita, as well as compare York County to surrounding counties.

As cases and deaths cross milestones, I show those in a different manner that visualizes how quickly (and fortunately now, more slowly) new cases and deaths were growing. I created hospital specific data, adding ICU and ventilator information to the basic hospitalization data when the situation was becoming more critical by the day, and I’ve shown testing data to demonstrate the relationship between testing and positivity rates.

Now I’m beginning to share vaccination data as well as aggregate information on how individuals can find available appointments.

In short, my goal has always been to help my neighbors understand our pandemic situation at the community level. Seeing numbers on the news each night doesn’t mean much, but being able to provide consistent context to these numbers creates understanding on a greater level. It is simply impossible to make informed decisions without the proper information, and I hope that through my work I have given that opportunity to my community. “

A few words from those who nominated Alanna:

“Alanna has fought hard to provide solid data and statistics for her local community in York PA. She not only researches and crunches the number she actively engages with our community and advocates for our health care workers who are struggling during this pandemic. As an ICU nurse working on a covid19 unit I appreciate her fact driven approach and her fighting myths on social media. I don’t have the energy to continue the fight online after the hard shifts I face but I know Alanna will keep fighting for me. She’s my hero.”

Click here to follow Alanna on Twitter
Click here to visit Alanna’s Facebook page

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