Dr. Thomas Chi

The Specialists Cohort (Connecticut)

Dr. Thomas Chi (Connecticut)

I’m an emergency physician in central CT, treating Covid patients on the front lines, and posting on Facebook between shifts. My particular focus is on breaking down the state and county-level data in Connecticut, comparing it with concurrent waves in Italy and NYC, to give my friends and neighbors an idea of how we’re doing overall. I’m also sharing the latest recommendations and expert opinions about PPE, safe behaviors, and safe schools, and combating disinformation.

A few words from those who nominated Dr. Chi:

“Dr Chi posts several times a week about the COVID pandemic in Connecticut specifically, and mines/references several high quality data sources to provide CT residents with up to date information about case numbers, vaccinations, and trends. He shares his information with local town pages despite commenters there targeting him with misinformation, and always remains calm, kind and data driven.”

“Since the beginning of this pandemic Tom has posted informative and useful information to allow people to make informed decisions.He has given updates weekly and link’s to other useful information. I have looked forward to his posts and learned everything I needed to know.”

“Tom has continuously kept the entire Middlesex community and beyond up to date on information from the beginning. His personal research has provided detailed tracking and updates from our area and around the world on an almost daily basis. The time and effort he has put in to keep all of us informed has been phenomenal and so greatly appreciated. We are all so thankful for all he has done.”

Click here to see Dr. Chi’s Facebook page

Chris Cuomo

The Press Cohort (New York)

This page is under construction. Check back later.

Chris Cuomo (New York)

A few words from those who nominated Chris:

“He cares strongly for the health being of all Americans especially New Yorkers He wants Covid to leave by all means so that everyone including me can regain their normal activities.”

Disclosure: Chris Cuomo is ineligible to be a finalist due to his previous work with one of our judges.

Youyang Gu

The Newcomers Cohort (New York)

This site under construction. Check back later!

In the data modeling world during COVID-19, there was no bigger name than Youyang Gu (New York). An MIT graduate with a pension for data, Gu led the nation with his clear, concise data reporting and analysis.

Matthew Holloway

The Professionals Cohort (Missouri)

Matthew Holloway received 15% of the thousands of nominations submitted. No other nominee comes close.

Matthew Holloway (Missouri)

“I do think the efforts here in Missouri have been remarkable,” Matthew said. “I certainly never intended or expected to find myself in the position I am in. When LPHAs across the state started contacting me with their numbers, I knew I’d be locked in to doing this for a while.”

“I started this project due to a lack of public communication relating to COVID-19 cases and deaths across Missouri, which were being grossly undercounted from the Missouri Governor’s office. I established relationships with administrators and leaders from health departments and hospitals across the state who were also in pursuit of comprehensive and accurate data. I provide (sometimes far too lengthy) text and visual updates at least five nights a week (7 days a week for the first 7 months) through Facebook, and have a little over 15,000 followers signed up. My goal has always been to provide the most accurate possible data in a manner that is accessible and understandable for all Missouri citizens to feel empowered to make informed decisions in the way they choose to respond to the pandemic.”

Click here to see Matthew’s Missouri COVID-19 data site.
Click here to see Matthew’s Facebook page.
Click here to follow Matthew on Twitter

While we work on getting our interview with Matthew up on the site, we’re going to let some (but certainly not all) of those who submitted Matthew do the talking:

“Not sure 1,000 characters are enough, but I’ll try: on a completely volunteer basis–and mostly on his own–Matthew has collated, organized, and shared data that would be (and should have been) the work of one or more state health departments, and has gone over and above to keep the people of Missouri aware of what’s happening in our state at a time when politics and other factors limited what was shared with the public. Matthew has done all of this while keeping a day job, having a young family, adding to that family, and experiencing his first pandemic like the rest of us. I can think of no better person for the award!!! Just go to his Facebook posts to see the time, energy, passion, and talent he’s put into this volunteer project, and you’ll see why so many people have come to rely on him to keep informed. He IS A TRUE COVID-19 DATA HERO! Now, is there an “Honorable Mention” category, because if there is, his wife deserves a lot of credit for supporting him in all this!”

“I feel like Matthew has been there for us since day one. Even though his Covid event, working a full time job, and raising a family, he has always been there! He is raw with us. Completely open and honest and someone that I felt that I could trust when there was no other site to turn to. I mean he definitely didn’t sugarcoat anything for us and that is what we needed, not only as a community or state, but a nation. We needed the facts. I could go on and on, but he simply is the best of the best! And his humor, well that helped me a many of rough nights when all the numbers were so overwhelming. Great Matthew. You should be so proud of all your hardwork and dedication! :-)”

“Matthew has single handedly created a Missouri covid information system available to his friends and followers on Facebook. As the project got more difficult he organized help from health departments. My husband is a physician running a covid unit. He knows Matthew personally and believes in his integrity. That’s all I needed to trust in him and his reporting.”

“The state of Missouri’s covid dashboard is junk. It’s thousands and thousands and thousands of cases behind in reporting the numbers to the residents of Missouri. Every night, Matthew gathers the Covid case and death data from each and every of the 117 jurisdictions in MO and compiles the info into graphics to let Missourians know what the actual Covid situation is like. The work he does is AMAZING. And he does this for free, after his day job, every single day, for almost a year now. He saw a need, and he jumped up and made a difference. He’s truly a hero.”

“Although I currently live in Miami Florida, Matthew Holloway lives in Joplin Missouri, which is the city I was born in. I occasionally visit Missouri, and Matthew provides me and my friends in Missouri the most complete tracking of COVID-19 infections and deaths for each of Missouri’s 114 counties, plus two other jurisdictions, including St. Louis. By providing a daily running total of new infections and deaths in each county, his updates help people to adjust their activities accordingly. He also shows the percentage of residents in various counties who have received their first vaccination and the overall percentage of Missouri residents who have received their first (12.8%) and second shots (6.6%). Matthew is very impressed with the daily communication provided by the St. Louis Metropolitan COVID-19 task force, but not as impressed with the communication that has been provided at a state level. He has attempted to compensate for this, and I think he has done an excellent job!”

“When the state of Missouri failed its residents, Matthew picked up the slack and started providing sound data and visualizations along with neutral narrative that allowed the every day person to understand the state of COVID across our state. Not only has his narrative been informational, Matthew never restricted his good humor and candidness providing none stop smiles and laughs during such a down and dark year. I should also mention that this is not his job and he purely does this out of the goodness of his heart, which speaks volumes to his character and how deserving he is this reward!!!”

“Matthew’s data has been consistent daily, since March 2020. He meticulously sources his data in a transparent way, that anyone can check, as he lists them. His graphs and information have been available to the nearby city councils, and clinics, anyone who needs data points to get across the seriousness and local statistics. This information has influenced so many in their COVID mitigation efforts and daily planning. He is courteous to a fault, with naysayers, simply acknowledging them, but not taking it personally. His facts help one weed through the misinformation and skewing of information. He gives praise where credit is due. All of this has been done as a VOLUNTEER, because of his dedication to providing this service to his community. All while raising a family and working. He also experienced COVID himself and his own family, while doing the project, and still continued data during that time when he was able. He this has immense empathy for those who have or will experience it.”

“Has taken it upon himself to be the most reliable, transparent, trustworthy source of information on COVID-19 in Missouri early 2020. I am a healthcare worker and his data has been invaluable to me at a time when so many things were unsure. I always knew I could trust Matt’s information, that it was not biased and it was the best sources. It helped me make informed decisions to protect myself, my family, and my patients.”

“I’ve been following Matthew’s Facebook posts since March or April of last year, and I immediately appreciated that he was presenting the data in a way that was much more accessible and understandable. As the summer wore on, I started following my local health department sites, so I volunteered to Matthew that I’d be happy to collect the numbers from the counties all around me. I joined his little team in September. The value of his work became even more apparent when the state data was transferred from the DHSS to an independent contractor for a hefty sum, no doubt. The numbers mysteriously started to fall way behind what our health departments were reporting. Matthew data had always been ahead of the state numbers, but now the difference was profound. I appreciate Matthew’s sense of humor, how he shares himself with us all, and how careful he is not to say anything that is too political so as not to alienate people. It’s an honor to help him. I wish his work wasn’t needed, but it is.”

Click here to see Matthew’s Missouri COVID-19 data site.
Click here to see Matthew’s Facebook page.
Click here to follow Matthew on Twitter

Lourdes Planas

The Specialists Cohort (Oklahoma)

Lourdes Planas (Oklahoma)

“I am a pharmacist and a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy. I teach statistics and conduct research, so I love working with data and creating graphs to tell a story. I’m also a wife and mother of two children.”

“When everything started to shut down in mid-March 2020, like everyone else, I felt isolated and scared about what was happening. Despite the constant reporting of national numbers on news outlets and social media, I yearned to make better sense of the numbers in my state and local region. I felt this was important to help me make decisions to keep my family and me safe.”

“As I searched for and found this information, I began posting daily Oklahoma COVID-19 updates on my Facebook page, including numbers of positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths provided by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH). I created a spreadsheet, which I still use today, embedded with multiple formulas to calculate measures that are easy to understand and graph.”

“On a daily basis since March 2020, I have been keeping track of this data, and will soon have over 365 days (1 year) of data! After posting daily updates on my personal Facebook page for 4 months, I co-created a public Facebook group called Oklahoma Covid Data Junkies. The group currently has approximately 7,200 members.”

“I post daily, weekly, and monthly updates with graphs that are easy to understand, as well as county, city, and zip code breakdowns of the most active areas of our state. A huge benefit of maintaining my own database is that I am able to create graphs that show trends such as ages of new positive cases and deaths on a weekly basis and COVID19-related hospitalizations (including as a % of all hospitalizations, and separating out ICU).”

“What I believe to be the most important aspect of my work is that the data that I post, both in writing and in graphs, are easy to understand and therefore, have a broader appeal to helping people make decisions for the safety of themselves and their families. I feel extraordinarily grateful that something that I started to help me make sense of things has become useful to so many Oklahomans!”

“The group’s members consistently express gratitude for having access to the data and explanations that I provide. It is a humbling experience to know that I’ve helped others, while at the same time helping myself feel connected to my Oklahoma community during this difficult time.”

“As a pharmacist and follower of science, I am supportive of the vaccines that have received emergency use authorization by the FDA. However, I understand that many persons are hesitant about being vaccinated. When I received the Pfizer vaccine in December, I had the opportunity to appear on several local news outlets to discuss not only my personal experience, but also the science behind, and data in support of, the available vaccines. Most of these appearances were with Spanish-language media, since I am fluent in Spanish. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to discuss vaccination data with this vulnerable population because their rates of COVID-19 infections are higher than other groups, and they often have many language and socio-economic barriers to accessing health care and information.”

“Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story and to be considered for this award! Please let me know if you need additional information or have any questions.”

A few words from those who nominated Lourdes:

“Dr. Planas uses her research skills to make posts on the group’s Facebook page. Based on reliable data, these posts have kept me informed of the COVID situation in my state. Also, very valuable links have been posted that allowed me to make my vaccine appointments, as well as appointments for others needing help.”

“Lourdes has kept the members of this group, Oklahoma Covid Data Junkies, informed about county, city, and zip code data. She described the information in a way that is easy to understand. She posts graphs that she developed that are very illustrative. Her information is free of political influence and agenda. This website has helped me make decisions about travel and going to places in my own town. “

Dr. Ferial Pearson

The Provocateurs Cohort (Nebraska)

Dr. Ferial Pearson (Nebraska)

Dr. Ferial Pearson is an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she specializes in teacher education.

Dr. Pearson has earned three national and several local awards for her work in education and social justice, including the Kennedy Center’s Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher award. She is the founder of the Secret Kindness Agents Project, which is the subject of two published books, her dissertation, and a TEDx Talk. The project is in over 500 K-16 schools worldwide and has been highlighted by Hallmark, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, and SPLC’S Learning for Justice Magazine.

Her decorated tenure as a leader in public education kept her alert to public disinformation regarding COVID-19 in schools.

“When the pandemic began, I noticed that there was a lack of data coming from the school districts about where cases were, the number of cases, the lack of mitigation efforts and resources in local schools, etc.,” Ferial said. “Soon, school employees and families began sending me their stories, the emails they were getting from schools about cases, and how they are feeling about what is really going on. I publish all this on my Facebook page after verifying they are true, and I will blur out people’s faces and names to protect identities.”

Much like Florida, Nebraska never issued a mask mandate, and there’s no consistent policy on when or why schools should open partially or completely.

“They also do not seek input from teachers or the community or look at actual data about whether or not it is truly safe to have hundreds of children and teachers in a school building that is not properly ventilated,” she said. “I hear from custodians, teachers, administrators, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, students, family members, and school nurses. “

“We are hoping that getting the truth out there will at the very least make more parents choose to keep their kids at home, and at the most, convince public officials to do the right thing and keep our school communities safe. Unfortunately, many people in power – including superintendents – have contacted my dean and senior vice chancellor asking them to censor me online and accusing me of stirring up drama with misinformation.

“However, I have kept the evidence, and have had to stand up to my administration about my right to post as a private citizen, parent, and concerned community member. Getting in trouble at work will not stop me from posting as I refuse to be complicit with abusive behavior towards school employees.”

A few words from those who nominated Ferial:

“She has fearlessly, after repeated retribution and complaints from district administrators across Nebraska, continued to share information regarding the spread of COVID and the lack of safety in schools locally and nationally, as well as the lack of safety at local businesses in Omaha and Lincoln metropolitan areas. She has become the voice for those without one, often receiving posts from teachers and other workers about their working conditions, and she posts it all for them anonymously. Without her, few would know about the state of COVID in schools. She is not yet tenured, but is on the tenure track at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in the College of Education, and is literally risking her career due to her activism. I can think of no one more deserving, nor anyone for whom this award would be more impactful, than for Dr. Ferial Pearson.”

Dr. David Blake

The Specialists Cohort (Georgia)

David Blake (Georgia)

I am a PhD Biomedical Engineer, and Med School Professor member at the Medical College of Georgia. Time series analysis and probability and statistics are a substantial part of my training, as has been computer programming, and I am a fan of the statistical epidemiological portions of infectious disease.

I am not an infectious disease researcher. In the pandemic, I first used data science so I could see what was happening in my locale, and in other regions. I then used it to help inform others. Early on in 2020, there were really no places to go for info, for example in April 2020 no one could tell you when cases would peak, or how bad it might be.

The governors of various states made truly absurd statements about their expectations that data science did not support. I realized that by posting daily plots on Facebook and Twitter, I could capture and audience. I mostly feed them daily info and data science, and retweet the most valuable info from professional infectious disease researchers.

As a medical researcher, they are my colleagues, and I seek to support and amplify their important voices in this critical time (and not to compete with them). As the pandemic progressed, info about trends and relative comparisons between regions became fairly commonplace, but there was, and is, a need for those seeking that information to also be pointed in the direction of the near future, as indicated by the professionals in infectious disease. I hope that my efforts have been helpful to my followers.

A few words from those who nominated Dr. David Blake:

“Easy to read charts that’s show spread and severity for all states and parts of Canada. I haven’t seen these data points shown in this way by anyone else and they give me the best visual representation of what’s happening on the ground and the trajectory. He posts first thing in the morning, so it’s always what I look for when checking twitter each day. ”

“Dave has provided graphs and data to the people that follow him on Facebook. It was easy to understand and useful after all the other information sources were messed up by the government.”

Click here to follow Dr. Blake on Twitter
Click here to visit Dr. Blake’s Facebook page
Click here to visit Dr. Blake’s website.

Gabriel Bosslet

The Specialists Cohort (Indiana)

Gabriel Bosslet (Indiana)

I am a pulmonary and critical care physician at Indiana University. I started a Facebook page outlining the data for the state of Indiana as the pandemic was beginning by pulling data from daily press releases and have been sharing daily updates (now 3 times per week) with interpreting commentary.

It has grown considerably and has become a community of support and helpfulness that has been a beacon of light for me as well as many of the readers.

I try to use the data to outline where we are; and use stories, humility, and a bit of humor to illustrate the importance of participating in public health interventions that have proven difficult for many.

I have been careful to avoid politicizing the science, and I think this has helped people to sort through what is going on here in Indiana.

A few words from those who nominated Dr. Bosslet:

“Dr. Bosslet has worked with statistician Micah Pollock to keep the state of Indiana well informed. Outside of his busy work schedule and family life, he has managed this page since the beginning of the pandemic. He utilizes numbers and provides meaningful analyses without the typical media hype, which has helped community members stay calm during these challenging times. His consistent analyses regarding COVID, mutations, and vaccines has been invaluable.”

“Dr. Bosslet began posting COVID data in March 2020 every day. Although he is a physician, he used easy to understand language when providing the positivity COVID data and the data’s impact on our community. Further, the shared hospitalizations and swaths in the county and state. Finally, his data knowledge helped support a local school district to establish school opening metrics before any county or state guidance had been given. As the pandemic progresses he continues to share the data and how use it to help make decisions for activities like going out to eat or traveling. He has since added Facebook live sessions that have over 1000 people watching each time. For many of us, he was the calm during the storm. His ability to talk data in a way that everyone understands made a huge impact on our community locally and state-wide.”

“Dr. Bosslet’s daily updates have been educational and encouraging, truly a light during dark times.”

Micah Pollak

The Professionals Cohort (Indiana)

Micah Pollak (Indiana)

Micah Pollak still remembers his first tweet about COVID-19 data in Indiana from March 22.

Indiana launched a poorly-formatted red-dot map, with one red dot for every county that had reported cases with no other information, as the only initial public resource for the public.

“I was looking back at some of my earliest Tweets on Covid and one was something like ‘I couldn’t find the graph I wanted so I made it myself,’ and I think that captures why a lot of us got into this in the first place,” Micah said.

What the state was putting out wasn’t enough.

Micah found the data presentation inadequate, sometimes misleading, and not answering urgent, basic questions. So he started exploring data on his own and then shared his analysis on Twitter, not expecting it to pick up the popularity or following he now has.

Micah is an associate professor of economics and the Director of the Center for Economic Education & Research (CEER) at Indiana University Northwest. So epidemiology was outside of his comfort zone, he said. What he did feel comfortable doing, though, was advanced statistics and data communication about what was happening.

“With so much happening outside our control during this global pandemic, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless,” Micah said. “By analyzing and reporting on COVID-19 data, with a special focus on my state and local region, I can empower people through a better understanding of what is happening in the world around them to regain their confidence and make informed decisions about their daily life.”

He’s passionate about education and serving his community, and sees his time during COVID-19 as an effort in cutting through the chaos and conspiracies to bring valuable data and analysis to the forefront.

He’d be remiss not to mention his frequent partner-in-data, Gabriel Bosslet, another one of our nominees in our Specialists group.

A few words from those who nominated Micah:

“Takes what is sometimes dry, confusing, gobblygook information and makes it interesting and easy to understand, and includes some much needed levity during these trying times.”

“The state of Indiana has not provided reliable information and Micah put everything in perspective as a parent, family member, and professional. “

Click here to follow Micah on Twitter
Click here to visit Micah’s website