California just announced that it would begin to share all of it’s COVID-19 data with the public as a way to increase transparency around their decision-making processes.
Governor Gavin Newsom made the announcement in his daily California COVID-19 Update where he said that all the data that public health officials have been using to inform decisions like shelter-in-place orders, mask requirements, and economic phased reopenings, will be available to all. Newsom said that this is not only a move to increase transparency but also a call on citizens to openly question the data, verify the numbers, and also tap into those who have the skills to make a difference.
“Now we’re opening up it all of you. We’re opening it up to mathematicians, we’re opening it up to people who are experts in AI, opening it up to our researchers and scientists, and our Nobel laureates, our partners across the spectrum, including citizen that have an expertise that has not been tapped, that haven’t been asked or haven’t availed themselves to the opportunity to engage,” said Newsom.
The website, calcat.covid19.ca.gov, breaks down their data into three categories:
- Nowcast “How fast is COVID-19 spreading right now?”
- Forecast “What can we expect in the next 2-4 weeks?”
- Scenariors “What are the long-term impacts under different scenarios?”
Each of these subsets of data provide several sources, including a running average of the sources, for each major metric and each county individually. California’s data on the present, future, and the far future of COVID cases is available for download as well and even has an open source resource for programers and other technical fields.
Many of the graphs on the website frame the efficiency of the virus as R-effective, or R0, which describes if R>1, the number of infected persons will increase. If R<1, the number of infected persons will decrease. At R=1, the number of infected persons remains constant.
“What we really want to see is a situation where that R-effective goes down below 1. And each bit above one 1.1, 1.2, ends up growing our cases in quite dramatic levels. That’s when you see often those graphs that show the steep, almost hockey-stick like arc up,” said Dr Ghaly, the Secretary of the California Health and Human Services.
This move also comes as medical and scientific communities have been called into question regarding the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor wanted to use this as an opportunity to stand behind our medical communities and top scientist.
“We want to backup the health professionals because this is the data they use to guide their decision making. Often that decision making is questioned by pundits, some for good reason, some for more mischievous reasons, more of an ideological argument or frame. We want to put all of this out there. We wanted it tested and we want it challenged.”
The Governor wanted to encourage those with inquisitive minds get their hands on the raw data themselves but also to reaffirm what we already knew – the data is real and it is factual.
Currently the state is looking at hospitalization, ICU, and PPE availability numbers the closest when making it’s decisions. Recently the state has seen a 32% increase of hospitalization rates in the state and an overall positivity jump from 5.1% to 5.6% in just the past week. Numbers that could quickly see reopening efforts squashed.