With businesses opening back up amid the pandemic, it is important to stay educated and move forth with precaution. To understand the COVID-19 crisis, we need to incorporate factual data into our decision-making. With this information, we can make decisions about when to open schools and businesses.
Dr. Jacqueline Housel, Professor of Geography and Chair for the Department of Sociology, Geography and Social Work at Sinclair Community College, further explained how maps are used to track COVID-19.
Maps have been used for health purposes since the 1800s. For instance, in 1854, there was a cholera outbreak in London and Dr. John Snow marked down the cholera cases on a map. Afterwards, he spoke to local residents and found that the disease could be linked to a water pump. Dr. Snow used a map to ask questions and solve a problem.
“[Geographers] see place as a way to examine multiple and intersecting processes and other phenomena that other disciplines often view in isolation,” said Housel.
Many questions can be looked at through a geographical lens. The more that people infected with COVID-19 move around in terms of geographic location, the more COVID-19 spreads around. A geographical perspective can also “connect the policies and practices in specific locations with lower/elevated COVID-19 cases” according to Housel.
Housel noted that Sinclair’s geography classes (including GEO 1101 Global Forces, Local Diversity) had its students working on final projects asking questions like, “Where are the hotspots? Why is one country experiencing elevated cases and deaths? What government policies and practices were in place that affected the trajectory of COVID-19?”
There is a foundational course currently being taught at Sinclair. It is GEO 1107 Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and it allows students to explore problems through the use of maps.
“[It] teaches students all the ways to collect, organize, map, interpret and analyze spatial and geographic data,” Housel said.
Outside of Sinclair, it can be seen that geographers have played a crucial part in working on the COVID-19. Through the use of computer mapping, the software BlueDot detected COVID-19 in late December 2019. Its algorithm picked up on 27 cases of a mysterious flu in Wuhan, China.
In a CBS interview with BlueDot’s founder and CEO, Dr. Kamran Khan, it was stated that “[BlueDot’s] algorithm was already churning through data, including medical bulletins, even livestock reports, to predict where the virus would go next” before official statements about the virus were even made.
BlueDot had no clients in the US at the time, but in Canada, some hospitals were preparing for the outbreak as far back as January. Calif. was the first US state to lock down its cities which prevented it from being hit as badly as New York, which went on lockdown later. Maps outlining the COVID-19 outbreak are always being updated. Public Health of Dayton and Montgomery County have posted much information about the virus and under the “Data” tab on their website is a map of Ohio where one can look at cases in specific counties.