We are working to complete our profiles for the more than 500 nominees submitted during the month of February. If you’d like to add to this profile, please email us at: Contact@Data-Usa.org
“My wife and I are veterans of the concert industry. So when covid hit, our entire world came to a halt a couple weeks before the US lockdowns started. We knew we were going to need a centralized place to stay in touch with our community, so on 3/17/20, we launched DFW Corona Connection.“
“What we didn’t know was that this group would quickly became a vital resource for nearly 22,000 of our neighbors. We fact checked everything. We took it upon ourselves to share everything from daily press conferences to daily case counts to daily updates from our local animal shelters. People turned to DFWCC for just about everything. Unemployment claim not going through? We had tips to bypass the clogged up website and phone lines. Need toilet paper? You can swap supplies here. BLM Protests? We followed them all in real-time. Election? Yeah, we did some of that too. Almost accidentally, we had created an online community that mimicked the “real world.” It’s still going strong today and we plan on keeping it going even after COVID-19 is no longer the daily headline.”
A few words from those who submitted Josh and Amanda Smith:
“At the onset of the pandemic, husband / wife team Josh & Amanda Smith created an online space exclusive to the Dallas / Fort Worth community called DFW Corona Connection. They have invested countless hours rooting out misinformation, offering resources and connecting the dots between the crises we have faced while providing localized & accurate daily data throughout the last year. The group has grown to over 21,000 members of information seekers, elected officials, journalists, community leaders, small business owners, etc. The group members have come to rely on Josh & Amanda not only for accurate information, but to provide a safe space for the North Texas community to digitally connect with their neighbors. Their efforts were recently recognized in an article from the Dallas Observer: “
“I have a demonstrated record of collaborative research, scholarly publication, teaching and advising, and participation in public health organizations and professional associations” Jason writes on his website.
Jason built a reputation in Florida as an honest, transparent and vigilant reporter of data and trends through his website and Twitter feed. Jason makes all of his data available to the public for free, and has invested countless hours in keeping Florida honest, never deterred by anti-mask, anti-vaccines and pro-government harassment. His commitment to data access, transparency and data visualization may be unmatched in the state of Florida.
A few words from those who nominated Jason:
“Dr. Salemi is consistent, transparent, dependable, creative, and trustworthy.”
“Non partisan data. Responsive to requests. The best in the state. Doing it for nothing but to inform.”
“With all the misinformation out there and cover-ups in our state and by our governor, Florida is lucky to have so many data heroes like Jason and Rebekah out there. They give us the truth when the government won’t!”
We are working to complete our profiles for the more than 500 nominees submitted during the month of February. If you’d like to add to this profile, please email us at: Contact@Data-Usa.org
“I have always loved spreadsheets and tracking data in order to gain insights into complicated phenomena, so when the pandemic started I began transcribing and charting Arizona Department of Health Services Covid-19 data in order to get a better sense of the progression of the pandemic in Arizona, and to keep a record of the data and how it changed over time (the ADHS data dashboard doesn’t have an option to download data). Then I started sharing my charts, and a link to a Google Sheet with the data, on the Tucson Coronavirus Facebook group and on Twitter, figuring as long as I was doing this work for my own curiosity I might as well share it in case anyone else was interested. My overall goal in all this has been to really “see” the pandemic and try and get a sense of how it works.”
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.”
Dr. Theresa Chapple has dedicated the last 13 months to combating misinformation about COVID-19, building her science communication skills to teach the public about Covid-19 prevention approaches, and advocating for data-driven public policy to address the pandemic.
Since June, she’s worked with 27 school districts across the country to aid in Covid-19 data and research interpretation, setting data related metrics for reopening and closings, and identifying and training on risk mitigation approaches.
She has also utilized platforms such as social media and traditional media to share public health prevention messages and translate research into language understandable by the masses.
She breaks the data down, offers analysis and context, and is one of the most responsive experts for COVID-19 information on Twitter.
“There’s a reason Dr. Chapple put this [COVID-19 outbreaks in schools and childcare settings] exhaustingly long list together, and why it’s still growing,” Karen Johnson wrote in Yahoo! News last August. “She wants us to realize and truly understand that this is what happens when people gather in groups. When adults gather in groups. When teens gather in groups. And when children gather in groups. Camps, daycare centers, and how it will be schools.”
A few words from those who nominated Dr. Chapple:
“Dr. Chapple may be the most courageous woman I’ve encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic. She unabashedly challenges misinformation in a confident and assertive way that doesn’t come off as talking down to people.”
“When a lot of junk science about schools came out from people with no subject-matter expertise, Dr. Chapple confronted them with the realities of what the real science and data showed, and by doing so likely saved many lives.”
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.
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 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?”
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.”
Hearing about the virus in China late in 2019, Avi sought out data tables and feeds but came up with none. The primary sources for developments and reporting COVID-19 were scattered across the internet, written in Mandarin, Korean and Japanese – languages Avi doesn’t speak.
So he began collecting as much data as he could, and by January 2020, he had one of the first sites tracking the virus worldwide.
His work earned him a 2020 Webby Award, presented to him Dr. Anthony Fauci for his work tracking COVID-19.
“As we collectively navigate the severe impact of COVID-19, including the difficult, but critical calls for nationwide social distancing, the Internet has become the lifeblood of people looking for accurate information about the novel coronavirus and the necessary steps to combat it. Since launching the site on December 29th, Schiffmann’s tracking tool has been an invaluable resource that sounded the alarm on the virus and its spread, notably calling attention to its severity long before many global officials. At a time when the spread of misinformation can be so detrimental to our efforts, the site has provided over 100 million visitors with accurate real-time data.”
Today, Avi runs his site between classes, applying to college, and homework.
He works with UNESCO, the European Union, and is now a youth ambassador to the United Nations.
He’s not interested in working on teleporting, by the way. He just wants to create revolutionary technology to recreate the internet, and work on cybernetics for creating sustainable technologies to combat the impacts of climate change. Or he’ll become a cottage cheese farmer. “Who knows,” he said.
A few comments from those who nominated Avi:
“He was just 17 years old & knew the pandemic was coming in November 2019. Look at what he did & think of how far he can go. He’s amazing.”
Even now, Iowa remains one of the few states that does not provide data about COVID-19 cases in schools.
But Sara Anne Willette does.
Sara invested all her efforts toward building the Iowa COVID-19 Tracker site early in the pandemic, and continues to provide the public with all of the data the state makes available in an easily-consumable, accessible and transparent way.
For Sara, running the site and keeping Iowans informed is personal; of the first three cases announced in the state, Sara personally knew two of them.
“I track Iowa’s COVID-19 data for two reasons,” she said. “First, the daily data presented by the State of Iowa contains numerous errors and lacks accessibility. The majority of the data must be hand-scraped, a task to which most working Iowans are unable to devote hours per day. Second, as a disabled American with Common Variable Immune Deficiency, I am in a unique position to assist as many Iowans as possible with risk assessment regarding infectious pathogens in their communities and schools.”
Sara made enemies within her state government and her own political party by pressing for more COVID-19 data access and transparency.
Sara continues to update her data daily, with help from several of her graduate students at Iowa State University who she hired to assist with the project.
A few words from those who nominated Sara:
“Sara has been tracking data since last March, and has been especially important given that the data published by our state has been incorrect, manipulated, and misleading. The view we have on our State’s official website is not current, so does not reflect current conditions. Sara provides data updates by county twice a day, and also data for school districts and colleges and universities in the state. Her transparency is unparalleled.”
“Sara has been accessible and has been rooting out inconsistencies this whole time. She reports honestly to Iowa in real time. She is a hero. She has been silenced and has been relentless with our science denying Governor.”
“Sara began by tracking the data released by the Iowa Dept of Public Health and presenting it in more accessible ways on her own web site. She has contacted the state DPH to try to get them to compute test positivity rates correctly (they still won’t). She independently tracks data on infections and quarantines among school students and staff, which the state does not do in a meaningful way.”
Eileen White resigned from her position as the sole epidemiologist in the newly-formed Fishers, Indiana health department after the mayor began interfering with how data was being represented to the public.
“It became clear that no matter what I did to help make data more transparent for my community, I simply could not honestly communicate about the data when working in local public health in Indiana, amidst a huge amount of political pressure.”
“It went very public very quickly and was incredibly uncomfortable,” Eileen said.
Eileen became a reluctant, though much-needed voice for reason and transparency, challenging the misleading information being put out by her local officials, especially when that misleading data related to schools and school safety during COVID-19.
“We developed community metrics to help guide our community health around risk and school closings and openings,” she explained. “The metrics said we were in one stage, and the mayor decided that we were in another and told the schools to open fully when that’s not what the metrics indicated.”
So she left a health department she had uprooted her life to assist.
She created “Public Health Is Your Job, Too” as both a website and Facebook resource for those looking to better understand COVID-19 in her state, and to advocate for science communication and public health.
She received threats. Her neighbors shunned her. Several times, she’d go outside and find her car doors left opened or ajar.
In the end, she had to move.
Eileen was by no means a public figure before she left the health department – she averaged about one tweet a month before she quit in protest of the local government’s political interference in science and medicine. After she resigned, she started a Facebook page to share public health data with the public.
Eileen wanted to adhere to the guidelines on reopening schools, but the mayor didn’t. She wanted communication about the risk of schools to be clear, but the mayor didn’t. And when push came to shove, her own health department wouldn’t back her up against the political interests trying to minimize the impact their policy decisions would cause.
“There are many of us that have felt powerless, silenced. The data may indicate one thing. The policy decisions that are made at the top by the politicians and even some of the directors do not follow data,” Eileen remembers.
“We have to be careful to say what we know and don’t know and why. What we know about kids is still under investigation, everything so far indicates they spread at least as much as adults,” she wrote.
Indeed, Mayor Scott Fadness made unilateral changes to the policies regarding reopening school, reminding the health department during one public meeting that it wasn’t up to the health department when and how schools opened.
“I did my best to hold the local and state health departments accountable for decision making and poor data interpretation , and held our state accountable for the absolute gutting of public health funding and investment in Indiana,” she said.”
Still somewhat shaken from the near-constant assault of her work and her personal life, led by anti-maskers, anti-lockdowners and “open schools NOW” pushers, Eileen looks forward to what’s next for her, even if it isn’t where she expected life to take her.
“It’s been a very long year, but I take heart that my work in data and public health education have informed Fishers, Indianapolis and surrounding areas on how to look at the information they are being given, how to ask questions, and how to challenge a political narrative that is very clearly without real, solid, vetted data behind it.”
Eileen graciously requested not to be considered a finalist, noting on her Facebook page: “I have been a strong advocate for science, data and my community, but I have gone nowhere near the levels of work of my co-nominees. These amazing folks are doing incredible work, and I hope that their careers are improved with this honor and well-deserved attention.”
Eileen’s commitment to science education under immense pressure and even threats exemplifies everything this awards program is about. Still somewhat uncomfortable with her new-founded celebrity and trying to work her way through the emotional toll of her experiences, Eileen struggles to be brave. Yet, those who do not struggle to be brave are not nearly as heroic as those who must fight each day to find it within themselves to go on.
Even though Eileen may not (yet) be a national figure like some of other nominees, she shares the stage with equal credibility, transparency, advocacy, and grit as everyone else.
Our program was designed not to give praise to those who already have the lectern, but to recognize those whose work within their communities, states or regions across the US and Canada profoundly changed conversations, challenged misinformation, and who paid a price in doing so.