Maryland Uses GIS Data to Track Public-Safety Operations Amidst COVID-19
Thursday, May 14, 2020 | Comments

The Maryland Department of Information Technology (DoIT) is using geographic information systems (GIS) data to oversee public-safety operations and partner with the local community to find solutions to the challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The DoIT released a variety of data-based dashboards with information about the coronavirus outbreak including number of cases per county, death toll, testing performed and nursing home cases. The department updates the data daily and captures it directly from epidemiologists. The state’s DoIT works to ensure that all data that is received has been cleaned and vetted and has gone through proper quality assurance before releasing it to the public, said Julia Fischer, GIS officer for the state, during a webinar hosted by the National 911 Program.

In addition to the public-facing dashboards, the department also developed several internal dashboards to help state public-safety personnel and hospitals fight the pandemic. The first dashboard is focused on tracking personal protective equipment (PPE) among public-safety organizations and hospitals. The database automatically updates as data comes in and shows the daily usage of PPE, how it is distributed among different organizations and forecasts for future PPE use.

The PPE dashboard has proved useful for the state’s response because the dashboard allows it to see organizations or hospitals that may have surplus equipment and transfer some of that surplus to organizations that are facing a shortage, Fischer said.

The other main operational dashboard for the state is one focusing on the status of hospitals. This dashboard automatically updates daily data on the number of beds and capacities for each hospital, allowing public-safety and medical personnel to ensure that a specific hospital doesn’t become overwhelmed, Fischer said.

Overall, the GIS data has proven useful for the state’s response by allowing it to dig deeper into a variety of challenges surrounding the virus. For example, the GIS data allows the state to look at the virus’ spread, as well as the population density in different areas and use that data to optimize the location of different resources, such as testing locations, needed to fight the virus, Fischer said.

The state also tracked patterns in social distancing practices within different communities to determine which particular practices are working the best at slowing the spread of the virus.

Outside of its internal operational dashboards, the state has made the rest of its COVID-19 datasets available for public download and use. Through this release, the DoIT hopes to help community leaders analyze the impact of the virus on their communities and empower citizens and nongovernmental organizations to analyze the data and offer their own solutions to the ongoing crisis.

“We want to build partnerships to help people share resources and research with each other all in the name of making better decisions to help with the recovery, response and rebuilding of Maryland,” Fischer said.

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