Dillon Richards

The Press Cohort (Oklahoma)

Dillon Richards (Oklahoma)

Dillon Richards is a reporter with ABC 5 Oklahoma City (KOKO) who has been covering COVID-19 in his state since the first few cases were disclosed.

Dillon tackled some of the most emotional and raw human stories throughout the pandemic through his data and reporting.

Now, he reports daily on vaccine distribution, providing Oklahomans with information about whether they qualify, where to make appointments, where vaccines are/are not in supply, and more.

In 2018, Richards won an award from the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters for a story about first responders to a heroin overdose.

Richards is originally from south Florida and went to high school and college in Georgia. He earned a degree in Digital and Broadcast Journalism from the University of Georgia. He interned at WMAZ-TV in Macon, Georgia.

A few words from those who nominated Dillon:

“Dillon does an amazing job keeping us updated here in Oklahoma City, along with Kassie. Completely appreciate their details keeping us in the know.”

Click here to follow Dillon 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. “