How Data-Driven Cities Respond Swiftly and Effectively to COVID-19

Blog Post by Jennifer Park, Lauren Su, Lisa Fiedler, and Madeleine Weatherhead: “Since January of this year, the novel coronavirus has swept rapidly throughout the United States, leaving no city untouched. To contain the virus’ spread and protect residents’ health and livelihoods, local leaders have had to act swiftly and decisively. It is a challenge in scope and scale unlike any other in recent history — and it has underscored the power of data to guide life-and-death decisions and build trust.

Take, for example, Los Angeles. As cities across the country began issuing states of emergency and acting to promote public health, Mayor Eric Garcetti quickly identified the city’s response priorities: supporting families, small businesses, healthcare workers, and unhoused Angelenos, and increasing the healthcare equipment and testing kits available for the city. Mayor Garcetti tapped his Chief Information Officer and Innovation Team to collect and analyze data, to inform decisions, and share real-time information publicly.

A snapshot of Los Angeles’ publicly shared data from one of the city’s daily COVID-19 summary briefings. Image courtesy of the City of Los Angeles’ Innovation Team.

The Mayor was soon conducting daily briefings, updating the public on the latest virus-related data and informing city residents about various decisions made by the city — from pausing parking rules enforcement to opening thousands of temporary shelter beds. He used data to justify key decisions, linking stay-at-home orders to a decrease in COVID-19 cases from week to week.

Los Angeles’ swift response built on an existing culture of leveraging data to set goals, make decisions, and communicate with the public. Its leaders are now seeing the positive impact of having invested in foundational data capacity — regular tracking of cases, hospital capacity, and infection rates have proven to be vital to helping and accelerating the city’s responses to COVID-19.

Other cities, too, have leaned on established data practices and infrastructure in their response efforts, both to the benefit of their residents and to lay a stronger foundation to guide recovery….(More)“.