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

Matthew Holloway

The Professionals Cohort (Missouri)

Matthew Holloway received 15% of the thousands of nominations submitted. No other nominee comes close.

Matthew Holloway (Missouri)

“I do think the efforts here in Missouri have been remarkable,” Matthew said. “I certainly never intended or expected to find myself in the position I am in. When LPHAs across the state started contacting me with their numbers, I knew I’d be locked in to doing this for a while.”

“I started this project due to a lack of public communication relating to COVID-19 cases and deaths across Missouri, which were being grossly undercounted from the Missouri Governor’s office. I established relationships with administrators and leaders from health departments and hospitals across the state who were also in pursuit of comprehensive and accurate data. I provide (sometimes far too lengthy) text and visual updates at least five nights a week (7 days a week for the first 7 months) through Facebook, and have a little over 15,000 followers signed up. My goal has always been to provide the most accurate possible data in a manner that is accessible and understandable for all Missouri citizens to feel empowered to make informed decisions in the way they choose to respond to the pandemic.”

Click here to see Matthew’s Missouri COVID-19 data site.
Click here to see Matthew’s Facebook page.
Click here to follow Matthew on Twitter

While we work on getting our interview with Matthew up on the site, we’re going to let some (but certainly not all) of those who submitted Matthew do the talking:

“Not sure 1,000 characters are enough, but I’ll try: on a completely volunteer basis–and mostly on his own–Matthew has collated, organized, and shared data that would be (and should have been) the work of one or more state health departments, and has gone over and above to keep the people of Missouri aware of what’s happening in our state at a time when politics and other factors limited what was shared with the public. Matthew has done all of this while keeping a day job, having a young family, adding to that family, and experiencing his first pandemic like the rest of us. I can think of no better person for the award!!! Just go to his Facebook posts to see the time, energy, passion, and talent he’s put into this volunteer project, and you’ll see why so many people have come to rely on him to keep informed. He IS A TRUE COVID-19 DATA HERO! Now, is there an “Honorable Mention” category, because if there is, his wife deserves a lot of credit for supporting him in all this!”

“I feel like Matthew has been there for us since day one. Even though his Covid event, working a full time job, and raising a family, he has always been there! He is raw with us. Completely open and honest and someone that I felt that I could trust when there was no other site to turn to. I mean he definitely didn’t sugarcoat anything for us and that is what we needed, not only as a community or state, but a nation. We needed the facts. I could go on and on, but he simply is the best of the best! And his humor, well that helped me a many of rough nights when all the numbers were so overwhelming. Great Matthew. You should be so proud of all your hardwork and dedication! :-)”

“Matthew has single handedly created a Missouri covid information system available to his friends and followers on Facebook. As the project got more difficult he organized help from health departments. My husband is a physician running a covid unit. He knows Matthew personally and believes in his integrity. That’s all I needed to trust in him and his reporting.”

“The state of Missouri’s covid dashboard is junk. It’s thousands and thousands and thousands of cases behind in reporting the numbers to the residents of Missouri. Every night, Matthew gathers the Covid case and death data from each and every of the 117 jurisdictions in MO and compiles the info into graphics to let Missourians know what the actual Covid situation is like. The work he does is AMAZING. And he does this for free, after his day job, every single day, for almost a year now. He saw a need, and he jumped up and made a difference. He’s truly a hero.”

“Although I currently live in Miami Florida, Matthew Holloway lives in Joplin Missouri, which is the city I was born in. I occasionally visit Missouri, and Matthew provides me and my friends in Missouri the most complete tracking of COVID-19 infections and deaths for each of Missouri’s 114 counties, plus two other jurisdictions, including St. Louis. By providing a daily running total of new infections and deaths in each county, his updates help people to adjust their activities accordingly. He also shows the percentage of residents in various counties who have received their first vaccination and the overall percentage of Missouri residents who have received their first (12.8%) and second shots (6.6%). Matthew is very impressed with the daily communication provided by the St. Louis Metropolitan COVID-19 task force, but not as impressed with the communication that has been provided at a state level. He has attempted to compensate for this, and I think he has done an excellent job!”

“When the state of Missouri failed its residents, Matthew picked up the slack and started providing sound data and visualizations along with neutral narrative that allowed the every day person to understand the state of COVID across our state. Not only has his narrative been informational, Matthew never restricted his good humor and candidness providing none stop smiles and laughs during such a down and dark year. I should also mention that this is not his job and he purely does this out of the goodness of his heart, which speaks volumes to his character and how deserving he is this reward!!!”

“Matthew’s data has been consistent daily, since March 2020. He meticulously sources his data in a transparent way, that anyone can check, as he lists them. His graphs and information have been available to the nearby city councils, and clinics, anyone who needs data points to get across the seriousness and local statistics. This information has influenced so many in their COVID mitigation efforts and daily planning. He is courteous to a fault, with naysayers, simply acknowledging them, but not taking it personally. His facts help one weed through the misinformation and skewing of information. He gives praise where credit is due. All of this has been done as a VOLUNTEER, because of his dedication to providing this service to his community. All while raising a family and working. He also experienced COVID himself and his own family, while doing the project, and still continued data during that time when he was able. He this has immense empathy for those who have or will experience it.”

“Has taken it upon himself to be the most reliable, transparent, trustworthy source of information on COVID-19 in Missouri early 2020. I am a healthcare worker and his data has been invaluable to me at a time when so many things were unsure. I always knew I could trust Matt’s information, that it was not biased and it was the best sources. It helped me make informed decisions to protect myself, my family, and my patients.”

“I’ve been following Matthew’s Facebook posts since March or April of last year, and I immediately appreciated that he was presenting the data in a way that was much more accessible and understandable. As the summer wore on, I started following my local health department sites, so I volunteered to Matthew that I’d be happy to collect the numbers from the counties all around me. I joined his little team in September. The value of his work became even more apparent when the state data was transferred from the DHSS to an independent contractor for a hefty sum, no doubt. The numbers mysteriously started to fall way behind what our health departments were reporting. Matthew data had always been ahead of the state numbers, but now the difference was profound. I appreciate Matthew’s sense of humor, how he shares himself with us all, and how careful he is not to say anything that is too political so as not to alienate people. It’s an honor to help him. I wish his work wasn’t needed, but it is.”

Click here to see Matthew’s Missouri COVID-19 data site.
Click here to see Matthew’s Facebook page.
Click here to follow Matthew on Twitter

Josh and Amanda Smith

The Volunteers Cohort (Texas)

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: “

Click here to visit Josh and Amanda’s DFW Corona Connection Facebook page.

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