The Provocateurs Cohort (California)
Eizabeth Shulok started tracking COVID-19 in California in May 2020.
Using her expertise as a data scientist, she built her own website to track, analyze and visualize data in San Diego County.
“The data tells the story; I just paint the picture,” said Shulok.
Elizabeth works with the press to produce accurate data visualizations, including a recent project to map the CDC schools guidance by zip code in her state.
Elizabeth wrestled with the pushback she received when she started reporting on cases in K-12 schools, finding that many in San Diego county (and online) would harass, threaten and berate experts who cautioned about what was known and what was speculation about kids, teachers and school staff.
“The violence coming from some of the pandemic deniers has made me hesitant to post openly about COVID-19,” Elizabeth said.
Despite the risk, Elizabeth pressed on, continued to track and report cases (including cases in schools), and challenged early misconceptions and lack of transparency in her area.
“I wasn’t convinced we knew enough about the role children play in the pandemic so I decided to see what the data shows,” said Shulok. “The county provides data on COVID-19, but doesn’t display it in a way to see how transmission varies by age group over time. So I created my own charts to try to get a better picture of what is happening with kids in San Diego County and ended up expanding from there.”
Elizabeth feared for her own safety at times, even going so far as to remove her name from her projects. But seeing activists using her data confront the anti-science crowd online and in the news encouraged her.
“It has shifted my perspective. And seeing them go on air, doing interviews to counter the Reopen Now group’s narrative, and getting bashed online, puts my work into perspective. What I’m doing is fairly neutral and less controversial,” she said.
Elizabeth provides all of the data free to the public with complete transparency of where it comes from, which is almost entirely primary sources.
A few comments from those who nominated Elizabeth:
“Her data analysis has provided insights and views that have illuminated areas of concern, highlighted gaps in tracking and brought into question policies in place.”
“As a concerned parent and data scientist, Liz used her skills to compile an amazing data dashboard, coding to periodically scrape data from publicly available sources in an easy-to-use, centralized format to help better under the role of schools in the coronavirus pandemic. Since we know that asymptomatic spread and a lack of testing are leading to serious undercounts, Liz’s dashboard provides a critical lower bound of confirmed, official cases and other data points that allow for better policy decisions knowing it is the tip of the iceberg.”