Jason Salemi

The Specialists Cohort (Florida)

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

Jason Salemi (Florida)

Dr. Jason Salemi is an Associate Professor with joint appointments in the at the University of South Florida College of Public Health and the Morsani College of Medicine. He also maintains adjunct faculty status at his former institution, Baylor College of Medicine.

“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.

“I have amassed a substantial and versatile proficiency in database development, data linkage, management, and analysis, program and systems evaluation, community engagement, and information dissemination. I am a passionate public health professional committed to solving problems and creating conditions that enable people to lead healthy, productive lives.”

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.

Graph depicting the lag in COVID-19 death reporting in Florida on Jason’s COVID-19 tracking site.

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!”

Click here to follow Jason on Twitter

Click here to visit Jason’s data site.

Click here to visit Jason’s personal site.

Andy Flach

The Volunteers Cohort (Arizona)

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

Andy Flach (Arizona)

“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.”

Click here to see Andy’s data tracking site

Click here to follow Andy on Twitter

Philip Nelson

The Newcomers Cohort (South Carolina)

Philip Nelson (South Carolina)

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.”

Click here to follow Philip on Twitter

Dr. Theresa Chapple

The Specialists Cohort (Georgia)

Dr. Theresa Chapel (Georgia)

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.

Her thought-provoking and thoroughly researched messages on school reopening challenged narratives being pushed by economists who intentionally misled the public about the risks associated with in-person learning during the pandemic.

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.”

Click here to follow Dr. Chapple on Twitter.

Avi Schiffmann

The Newcomers Cohort (Washington)

Avi Schiffmann (Washington)

Avi Schiffmann is a bonafide “boy genius.”

The first confirmed COVID-19 case in the United States in Washington startled Avi Schiffmann, even though he was one of the first to track the virus world-wide.

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.”

Anthony Fauci, May 2020

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.”

Click here to follow Avi on Twitter

Click here to vist Avi’s website

Eileen White

The Provocateurs Cohort (Indiana)

NPR interview with Eileen White and Caroline Buckee, from Dec. 13, 2020

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.

Eileen White (Indiana)

“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.

Eileen wanted to adhere to the Harvard Key Metrics for Covid Suppression that had just been released for community risk mitigation.

“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.”

We disagree.

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.

Click here to follow Eileen on Twitter.
Click here to see Eileen’s Facebook page.
Click here to see Eileen’s website.

Megan Messerly

The Press Cohort (Nevada)

Megan Messerly’s 40th post in her weekly “Coronavirus Contextualized” series is the epitome of high-quality data reporting.

Megan Messerly (Nevada)

Whatever data is out there, Megan pulls in, analyzes and, as the title suggests, puts into context.

Her work for the Nevada Independent put her at the top of the pack in our Press Cohort, and rightfully so – her work manages to take the wealth of data that could be overwhelming and make it easily consumable, understandable, and accessible.

“It is not possible to independently calculate the test positivity rate based on test encounters because the state only reports the number of positive cases, not the number of positive test encounters,” her latest post noted. “However, the state does provide this number, calculated as an average over a 14-day period with a seven-day lag. As of Wednesday, that number was 11.3 percent, down from a high of 21.7 percent on Jan. 13. In September, before cases started to increase, the test positivity rate was 6.1 percent — meaning that test positivity is still nearly double what it once was.”

In her own words:

“In early March, when Nevada announced its first two cases of COVID-19, there was nowhere to turn for reliable data. The data lived scattered among various state and county websites and press releases.”

“So, I created The Nevada Independent’s first COVID infographic — which lived in our weekly live blogs — nearly a week and a half before the state set up its data portal. Since then, I’ve detailed and analyzed the latest COVID data in Nevada in my “Coronavirus Contextualized” series, which has published almost every single week since April 1.”

“In June, I transitioned the infographic into a full-fledged data page, which I, by myself, have updated multiple times a day, every single day, since then, including weekends and holidays.”

“I do want to give a shout out to my colleagues, who helped me with data collection for the first couple of months of the pandemic, and to our chief technology officer CJ Keeney, who helped me set up the backend of our data collection process and who is always there to answer any questions I have when something goes awry.”

View a sample of Megan’s work below

Click here to read the above article.
Click here to read the article

“To me, I think the most important part of my reporting, whether the graphics, the “Coronavirus Contextualized” series, or other individual stories I’ve written, has been providing clear information to Nevadans — not only keep them informed about the reality of the situation in our state, but to help them make educated decisions about what steps they are going to take personally to respond to the pandemic. I’m so grateful to everyone who has followed along for the last year!”

A few words from some of those who nominated Megan:

“Megan has reported our daily case, test positivity and hospitalization numbers, as well as the corresponding graphs, every day through the pandemic. She gives cliffs for every conference call of our state COVID team. She’s accessible and puts up with all the crap that the anti-maskers can give her.”

“Megan originated the “Coronavirus in Nevada” site early in the pandemic and has been the main staffer to keep this data site populated. We, as users, know that it is reliable and up to the hour with the latest data. And it’s very comprehensive, especially with the county by county statistics. Plus, her Twitter account and health newsletter keeps us informed on statements from health officials and where we can get vaccinated. Living in a rural county with no TV station, I would have felt so underinformed without her. She is Las Vegas-based, but does a wonderful job with informing residents of other counties, including little old Elko Co. where I live. And the best part is that she still maintains her beat covering politics and other health issues. A tireless journalist with a VERY appreciative Twitter following. We never want her to leave Nevada Indy, but when she gets interviewed by national media, we are reminded that someone will make her an offer she can’t refuse.”

Click here to follow Megan on Twitter

Click here to see some of Megan’s reporting.

Andrew Berens

The Professionals Cohort (Louisiana)

Andrew Berens, a population health and geospatial analyst with the Louisiana Department of Health, built and has maintained since March 2020 the Louisiana COVID-19 Information Dashboard.

Andrew Berens (Louisiana)

Andrew has worked to make COVID data consistently and transparently available to the public and local officials.

In addition to the public facing work, Andrew assists the state with data cleaning and processing, and he response to request for assistance from data users, making the state’s data more widely available.

A few words from those who nominated Andrew:

“Andrew worked quickly in March to establish one of the first state-level COVID dashboards when the first Louisiana case was reported, publishing one up in time to report Louisiana’s first death. Since then he has continuously worked to improve data quality and increase transparency, advocating to make high-quality data easily downloadable. Now that the vaccine rollout has begun, Andrew has stepped up on the team tasked with cleaning, enriching, validating, and reporting vaccination data as well to ensure these data are also accurately and transparently shared with the public.”

“Throughout the pandemic Andrew has worked directly with local officials, answering questions and helping to integrate state data in to their local informational products. He has also taken time to answer citizen questions regarding the dashboard, ensuring the people of Louisiana understand the data being presented.”

Click here to follow Andrew on Twitter.

Dr. Anne Zink

The Specialists Group (Alaska)

If the true measure of a person’s character can be derived from how they treat their inferiors, then Dr. Anne Zink would score aces.

Dr. Anne Zink (Alaska)

Members of her team have publicly praised her expertise, humility, and empathy.

“She encourages Alaskans to take care of each other, and to check in on neighbors who may need a helping hand,” wrote Sarah Erkmann Ward, an Anchorage communications consultant who worked with Dr. Zink during the crisis.

“She is the right person at the right moment that we never knew existed,” Erkmann told Alaska Public Radio.

Dr. Zink is the Chief Medical Officer for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, and she began her regular updates on COVID-19 long before the virus reached her state.

“I want to make sure you have the latest information at your fingertips,” Dr. Zink wrote in her monthly newsletter in February 2020.

Dr. Zink’s team developed user-friendly web tools for Alaskans to see if they’re eligible for vaccines and make vaccine appointments.

Alaska Public Media wrote about Dr. Zink’s dedication and skill with communicating complex science with the public.

She’s also been widely praised for… her ability to work with others, project calm under pressure and communicate in a clear and relatable way.

Alaska Public Media, April 2020

A few words from those who nominated Dr. Zink:

“Dr. Anne Zink from Alaska is a total badass and has been keeping us up to date with accurate data since early March 2020”

“Using a data driven approach, she has wonderfully informed Alaskans about how actions have consequences in the covid crisis (both positive and negative) She has a great humility, but is so deserving of awards! “

Click here to follow Dr. Anne Zink on Twitter.

Award note: Dr. Zink has requested that she not be considered a finalist or be awarded any monetary prizes due to her position with the state.