GIS Lead Response to COVID

Although the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, by definition, was a global event, like all disasters, it was experienced locally by millions of individuals who lost their loved ones, their incomes, and their sense of normalcy.

As the COVID-19 outbreak grew to an epidemic and fears of its metamorphosing into a pandemic began to be considered seriously, Johns Hopkins University (JHU) launched its COVID-19 dashboard. A team led by Lauren Gardner, an epidemiologist and codirector of the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at JHU, created the dashboard using Esri technology. It immediately went viral, with the number of visitors skyrocketing as it became the global reference for the pandemic, while Esri continued providing support to JHU.

Early in the COVID-19 outbreak, Johns Hopkins University launched its COVID-19 dashboard which immediately went viral, with the number of visitors skyrocketing as it became the global reference for the pandemic.

“When disease can travel so quickly, information has to move even faster. The intense response generated by the Johns Hopkins dashboard shows how eager people around the world are to track health threats,” explained Dr. Este Geraghty. She is the chief medical officer and health solutions director at Esri. “The dashboard presents targeted, up-to-date information needed to understand the progress of a disease and makes it available in a public, easy-to-digest format.”


Applying Geographic Technology

Organizations have been using mapping for hundreds of years—and GIS in recent decades—to understand the spread and impacts of epidemics. In this century, GIS has played important roles in tracking and helping to contain two other human coronaviruses, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. During the Ebola outbreak in 2013, government officials used GIS to site emergency treatment centers, manage bed capacity, and coordinate response efforts. However, GIS use for COVID-19 has been the most comprehensive and effective one to date.

The organizations that applied the geographic technology of GIS to COVID-19 ranged from local to international. The widespread use of GIS for COVID-19 response has demonstrated the power of geospatial thinking and the scalability, speed, and insight provided by GIS. More than simply mapping phenomena, GIS uses geography to furnish context for events in a common reference system. Applying spatial analysis tools, GIS brings out the relationships, patterns, and associations that are often hidden by the complexity of data.

The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of a geospatial infrastructure for effective and informed action in disasters. Johns Hopkins University’s dashboard could deliver the information on COVID-19 that everyone urgently sought because it tapped into the enterprise system for the pandemic response provided by the ArcGIS platform and delivered by the Esri Geospatial Cloud. Its speed and scalability have been demonstrated by thousands of organizations around the world that stood up ArcGIS Dashboards and ArcGIS Hubs and implemented ArcGIS Solutions for responding to the pandemic and ensuring business continuity.


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This article is re-posted with permission from Esri