RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — You’ve probably been overwhelmed by all the numbers tossed around during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A team of researchers at the University of North Carolina is trying to simplify things with their new data dashboard.
“We tried to ask questions that we think people would want to have answers to,” said Lori Carter-Edwards of UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and one of the project’s leaders.
What makes the UNC dashboard — launched last week after being developed by a team led by 15 faculty members — unique is its emphasis on explaining complex statistical concepts with plain language while also remaining useful for scientists and data experts.
“That’s probably been one of the biggest things … what does the general person need to know?” Carter-Edwards said. “Whether it’s’ a researcher, a provider, a clinician, someone from the health department or the community.”
The dashboard’s defining features also are statewide maps of potential hot spots of COVID-19 outbreaks — a list that includes K-12 schools and child-care centers, meat-processing plants, nursing homes and colleges and universities — along with county and ZIP code boundaries color-coded based on their case rates or other metrics.
The dashboard also includes a dictionary of significant but perhaps unfamiliar epidemiological and statistical terms — from R-naught to confidence limits.
It also includes links to published papers from scientists from Gillings and a collection of other dashboards from state and county sources.
“Our focus is probably leaning more toward the research end of it, with the intent of answering questions for the general public,” Carter-Edwards said.
She said the project was financed via the state’s coronavirus relief fund, and those funding rules required it to be completed by the end of this month.
And while other dashboards launched much earlier in the pandemic, Carter-Edwards says the one from UNC Gillings doesn’t come too late because people still have questions about testing and the vaccination process.
“We’re in that spot right now in the holidays where you still want people to practice safe behaviors, not only because COVID is here, but we’re now in flu season, and despite the vaccine coming out everybody hasn’t gotten it yet,” she said. “So people still need to be looking at this data … This gives people a good insight of how important is is for them to engage in preventive measures. So I think it’s still timely.”