GIS aids in Covid-19 fight beyond tracking cases

Geospatial analysis helps in understanding community vulnerabilities, population mobility, and local businesses, according to panelists at Esri's annual user conference

GIS aids in Covid-19 fight beyond tracking cases
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Geospatial data is helping battle Covid-19 in ways other than tracking infection hot spots, panelists at this week’s Esri virtual user conference told online attendees.

In Santa Monica, city officials built dashboards and maps so residents knew what businesses were still open, according to GIS analyst Zach Robinson. This was important both to help people find groceries and pharmacies and to help neighborhood businesses, he said. They also used geospatial analysis at the start of the pandemic to track city workers’ whereabouts to help plan ways for more to work more safely at home.

[ Read the IDG Special Report: Navigating the pandemic ]

Visibility of location-based data in the community has “skyrocketed,” Robinson said.

The global humanitarian organization Direct Relief used geospatial data in ArcGIS to track supply shortages and help with risk analysis, according to Andrew Schroeder, vice president of research and analysis there.

“Spatial modeling helps us think through relationships in a new way,” he said, including things like mobility of populations and community risk factors.

And at Providence St. Joseph Health, they looked not only at cases and hospitalizations but at social vulnerability data, said vice president of community health investment Dora Barilla. It was critical not only to have such various data sets, but to be able to relate them to each other and then share the data with partners.

“If you’re not thinking about the next disaster,” she said, “you’re really missing the boat here.”

Esri said it will offer six months of free ArcGIS service for organizations responding to the Covid-19 pandemic under its Disaster Response Program. For-profit as well as non-profit organizations are eligible, a company spokesman said.

In addition, Esri has posted Covid-19 resources at


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