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

Madison Schaffer

The Specialists Cohort (New Mexico)

Madison Schaeffer (New Mexico)

“I’m the lead epidemiologist for the COVID-19 hotline at the N.M. Department of Health. Our state has a 24/7 hotline that members of the public, medical professionals, and first responders can call with questions or concerns.

The team I coordinate consists of nurses, epidemiologists, and health educators, and my job is guiding and supporting them to ensure that we give the best possible help.

We handle thousands of questions each week, ranging from positive cases who need guidance to business owners wanting to come up with travel policies for their employees.”

A few words from those who nominated Madison:

“Madison has worked tirelessly since the beginning as an Epidemiologist, for the New Mexico o Department if Health. She mans the help line and pairs people with services to help them, does contact tracing for the stay and works with the first responders. She regularly posts updates on her Facebook page to keep everyone informed and allows us to share those with the public”

Jen Jennings

The Specialists Cohort (New Jersey)

Jen Jennings (New Jersey)

“With a team of three fabulous research assistants – Jenna Shaw, Katie Eiler, and Paul Darnell – we’ve been pulling together and analyzing school-level data on cases in NYC, and considering rates in all sectors – traditional public, private, and charter. State and city agencies have made data difficult to access and analyze, and we hope to do our part to make data on school-level rates of infection more transparent.”

A few words from those who nominated Jen:

“In the push to reopen schools in NY state and NYC this year, Jen’s data collection on the increase in school cases and in NYC children in general is helping in the fight to get and adjust safety protocols in our schools.”

Click here to follow Jen on Twitter

Dr. Angélique Blackburn

The Specialists Cohort (Texas)

Angélique Blackburn (Texas)

Angélique Michelle Blackburn, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Texas A&M International University, with specializations in cognitive neuroscience, survey design, and bilingualism.

She uses neurocognitive and survey methods to study the long-term effects of language habits on cognition.

Integral to this research has been large-scale data collection to create a series of validated surveys, including the Survey of Experience in Code Switching Environments (SECSE), a reliable and valid measure of bilingual language experiences. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Blackburn dedicated her 2020 Spring Break to volunteering her research skills as needed to help combat the pandemic. 

Because of her expertise in survey design and survey science, Blackburn was recruited to join the COVIDiSTRESS Global Research Consortium, where she aided in the creation of a global survey regarding the impact of COVID-19.

This Consortium now includes over 100 members who have collected data from 173,426 respondents from 179 countries. She also began a longitudinal study on the impact of COVID-19 in Laredo, TX in March 2020, because this was one of the communities predicted to be most heavily impacted by the pandemic in the United States.

This foresight provides the rare opportunity to follow the impact of COVID-19 on one community from before the area discovered their first local COVID-19 case through the time when they began to lead the nation as the worst COVID-19 hotspot.

A few words from those who nominated Angélique Blackburn:

“Dr. Blackburn has been active in our local community. She was diligent about educating students and community members about social distancing, even before anyone in Texas knew what that meant. She began a longterm study of COVID-19 in March of 2020 because she predicted that Laredo would suffer long-term consequences of the pandemic. This is because Laredo is both an economic hub as an entry point into Mexico and because the Hispanic population is one which is most affected by COVID-19. She also helped to design the GLOBALDiSTRESS COVID-19 survey. This survey was taken by participants from all over the globe and the data is open to all researchers. Dr. Blackburn has worked largely behind the scenes on the project by helping to create the survey and collect data with a team of researchers from around the world. To summarize, Dr. Blackburn has made a large impact, both locally and globally, on our data and knowledge of how COVID-19 has affected the world.”

“Dr. Blackburn was one of the eight survey design psychologists who created the GLOBALDiSTRESS COVID-19 survey, a study that resulted in nearly 200,000 participants from 179 countries. This dataset is open-access, so many scientists have already published results of the dataset. She also started one of the first longitudinal studies on the impact of COVID-19 in Laredo, Texas. Laredo is an interesting case study, as it was the first city in the United States to mandate masks, is one of the cities that has been heavily impacted by the pandemic, and has a large Hispanic population, one of the groups most affected by COVID-19. Laredo is an often overlooked community and suffers from some pretty extreme inequalities. Dr. Blackburn’s project focusing on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemics impact on this population is an amazing contribution to the state of Texas and to the Laredo community. “

Click here to follow Dr. Blackburn on Twitter.

Jill Henning

The Specialists Cohort (Pennsylvania)

Jill Henning (Pennsylvania)

Jill Henning is an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.  

Early in the pandemic she and her students put together a coronavirus toolkit for businesses, families, and schools that was freely available here.

In March 2020, Editor Chip Minemyer recruited her along with a local physician to answer questions concerning COVID-19.  She made science relatable and engaging answering hundreds of questions. 

The COVID-19: Your Questions feature was picked up by other CNHI newspapers across the country. 

In December 2020, Cambria reached a grave milestone: they were first in the nation for COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita.  That December, Ashlee Kiel reached out to Jill to help with the community effort to educate she was beginning. 

From that meeting, In This Together Cambria was born. This organization along with The Tribune Democrat and UPJ, have been educating residents of Cambria county through questions, webinar series, video productions, and educational materials.  

Her entire goal through this pandemic was to make science relatable and easily understood.  She continues to work towards that goal daily.  

A few words from those who nominated Dr. Henning:

“Dr. Henning has made it her mission since the pandemic began to bring knowledge, facts, and reason to the people of Cambria County. Cambria County is a rural area that did not take much of the pandemic seriously. Dr. Henning was able to reach thousands across the county (and country) with the website (linked below) that she helped build. It is easy to follow and is very resourceful. She has also done countless interviews and webinars answering questions for the people of her community. She has been a leader in Cambria County over the past year, and even through some adversity she has faced, she continues to fight the good fight. She is a true hero to the people of this community, and I can guarantee her drive to spread her invaluable information has saved countless lives throughout the course of this pandemic.”

“We are so lucky to have a resource like Dr. Jill Henning from UPJ in town. Last week she shared questions that adults had been asking and this week she tackled the kids. Through the wonders of Zoom, she agreed to answer questions kids have about the Coronavirus by having her son and niece share their questions. She touched on how the virus spreads, if it “changes”, if take out meals safe, how to properly don and doff a mask and more. She uses clear and amazing visuals to explain the concepts and has a fun hand washing exercise that you can do with the kids. I hope you take the time to watch the whole video and invite your family to watch with you. She’s so upbeat and reassuring! “

Click here to follow Jill on Twitter
Click here to visit the “In this together Cambria” website

Russell Schwartz and Katherine Quirk

The Volunteers Cohort (Florida)

Russell Schwartz and Katherine Quirk (Florida)

Russell Schwartz, an elementary school principal, and Katherine Quirk, a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse, started looking for ways to help Florida seniors navigate the state’s difficult vaccine rollout online in late December 2020.

On new year’s day, they decided to launch a Facebook group to help provide information and get people appointments

Today, the South Florida COVID-19 Vaccination Info Facebook Group they created currently has more than 30,000 members.

The purpose of the group is to share timely, verified COVID-19 vaccination information in a politically-free environment. This information ranges from vaccination availability, detailed information on securing an appointment, to day of vaccination experience.

The group is served by volunteers who serve by moderating the group, researching vaccination locations, procedures, and opportunities, contacting seniors and individuals that need assistance with the process, and securing vaccination appointments.

While the group is focused on providing information for individuals to utilize to book appointments independently, we empathize that many residents in our community lack the technology, the technical skills, or the ability to use this information to secure their own appointment.

“Our volunteers serve by bridging the technology gap in these cases, and assist in securing appointments,” Russell Schwartz said. “As availability and qualifying groups continue to expand and evolve, South Florida COVID-19 Vaccination Info will continue to serve as a resource through all stages of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.”

“Katherine and I have helped launch 14 other similar groups throughout the country and have connected, and collaborated, with another 11 groups. The total amount in all of the groups is nearing 300,000,” said Russell.

A few words from those who nominated Russell and Katherine:

“Katherine Quirk and Russell Schwartz started a Facebook Group at the beginning of this year to assist South Florida seniors who are not technically savvy in navigating the very difficult system of getting the Covid-19 vaccine in south Florida. In one month’s time this group has grown to over 21,000 members and volunteers who have been able to navigate a confusing and constantly changing system in Florida and have also helped out of state family to obtain vaccines for their in-state elder family members. They do this strictly as volunteers with a “Pay It Forward” philosophy in addition to their day jobs. Katherine is pediatric oncology nurse and Russell is an elementary school principle. They ask for nothing for themselves while devoting countless hours to help others with the rigors of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. They are very worthy of this award.”

Click here to visit the South Florida COVID-19 Vaccination Info page
Click here to follow Russell on Twitter

Jo Ingles

The Press Cohort (Ohio)

Jo Ingles (Ohio)

Jo Ingles covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and most recently, the COVID pandemic. Jo has looked at the data, asked tough questions of state leaders and has explained the various facets of the pandemic for listeners and viewers.

After working for more than a decade at WOSU-AM, Jo was hired by the Bureau in 1999. Her work has been featured on national networks such as National Public Radio, Marketplace, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium and the BBC. She is often a guest on radio talk shows heard on Ohio’s public radio stations. In addition, she’s a regular guest on WOSU-TV’s “Columbus on the Record” and WBNS-TV’s “Face the State.” Jo also writes for respected publications such as Columbus Monthly and Reuters News Service.

She has won many awards for her work across all of those platforms. She is currently the president of the Ohio Radio and TV Correspondents Association, a past board member for the Ohio Legislative Correspondents Association and a past president for the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters. Jo also works as an instructor at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Here are some of Jo’s articles covering COVID-19:

Why New COVID Death Total Is So High | The Statehouse News BureauThe state’s coronavirus website shows 752 deaths since Tuesday, the last time the numbers updated. But Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud says 428 of those are Ohioans who died out of
Ohio Is Changing The Way It Handles COVID-19 Death Data | The Statehouse News BureauDr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the chief medical officer for ODH, used a diagram to explain the current reconciliation process, which involved the agency’s employees taking steps to speed up the reporting of the death
DeWine Gives Hint Of When Mask Mandate, Other Health Orders Will Be Lifted | The Statehouse News BureauA year after the Arnold Sports Festival became the first major event canceled because of coronavirus, DeWine says Ohioans have made great progress by wearing masks, social distancing, and getting
The Whys And Hows Behind The Metrics For Lifting Health Orders | The Statehouse News BureauGov. Mike DeWine says he’ll lift the mask mandates and other health orders when Ohio’s coronavirus cases drop to 50 cases per 100,000 Ohioans over a
More Ohioans Are Eligible For COVID-19 Vaccines | The Statehouse News BureauStarting Thursday, more Ohioans will be eligible for COVID vaccines. That’s because nearly a half a million more doses will be available this
Federal Mass Vaccination Site Coming To Cleveland | The Statehouse News BureauGov. Mike DeWine says he’s excited about the new clinics because they will allow more people to be vaccinated quickly. “Mass vaccination clinics have always been part of our plan, but adequate supply is necessary for larger sites, so it was crucial that we first established local provider sites in all 88 counties to ensure that every citizen in every community has a provider nearby,” said …

A few words from those who nominated Jo Ingles:

“Jo has continued thru her Twitter feed and on radio/television to post data and relevant news about the pandemic. I am most familiar with her Twitter postings geared toward understanding the raw data. “

Click here to follow Jo on Twitter
Read Jo’s Statehouse News profile and stories here

Marmi Le

The Professionals Cohort (Colorado)

This page still under construction. Check back later.

Marmi Le (California)

Marmi is a healthcare analytics veteran who has worked in the industry for two decades. 

Formerly a business intelligence developer at Children’s Hospital Colorado, she provided evidence that infectious disease preventionists’ efforts to properly isolate covid-suspected/positive patients were working, among other analyses since the start of this crisis in support of the hospital system’s covid command center. 

As cofounder of Pie and Donut Analytics last year, she wrote a two-part series of articles on Medium about being a data worker in these pandemic times – “How to make a covidiot-proof COVID-19 dashboard” and “A Tale of Two Covid-Era Data Whistleblowers.” 

You can read them here and here

A few words from those who submitted Marmi Le:

“Marmi has been a data hero for almost a quarter century. After working as a research associate in the finance industry for 5 years, she was laid off when the first tech bubble burst, then for the next almost two decades until November 2020 has practiced advanced data analytics in the healthcare industry. She has saved California an estimated $334M per year as statistician for the state’s Medicare program, performed a lead role in projects directly helping transplant patients and their caregivers as a data analyst and certified Improvement Advisor for Kaiser Permanente, and identified ~$40M in annual savings from Medicaid drug purchasing and served as a data science mentor at IBM Watson Health. More recently, she created dashboards and performed various ad hoc requests supporting the COVID-19 command center and infectious disease department at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Currently, Marmi is a cofounder at Pie and Donut Analytics, a consulting firm specializing in healthcare data.”

Dr. Eleanor Murray

The Specialists Cohort (Massachusettes)

This page still under construction. Check back soon.

Dr. Ellie Murray (Masachusettes)

Dr Ellie Murray is an assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health.

Her research focuses on how to make good decisions using data, and during the pandemic she has turned her attention to helping make sense of and communicate the science behind COVID.

She is the co-founder of the Epidemiologic COVID-19 Response Corps at Boston University, and with this group has conducted research on COVID transmission, evaluated published COVID research to identify errors and reconcile conflicting findings, and developed a series of science communication tools including a webseries and cartoon infosheets. She is also a recurring guest expert on COVID for the BBC World Service.

Click here to follow Dr. Murray on Twitter