City of Dallas Innovation Team Launches COVID-19 Tracker and Food Access Surveys to Crowdsource Data

The public outreach tools could help the city anticipate COVID-19 hotspots, predict where critical healthcare resources may be needed in the future, and increase access to food.

The City of Dallas’ Office of Innovation—with feedback and support from Dallas County, academic institutions, and the DFW Hospital Foundation—has launched a myriad of data-driven initiatives that it says will aid in responding to the global pandemic.

The goal is to help Dallas residents more easily understand complex information related to COVID-19. At the same time, the Office of Innovation hopes residents will provide feedback that could impact decision making when paired with the team’s data, design, and process improvement.

“The City of Dallas is using all of its public outreach tools to ensure we are getting robust data from across the city,” Laila Alequresh, the city’s chief innovation officer, told Dallas Innovates. “The hope is that researchers will use crowdsourced data to anticipate where hotspots have the potential to develop and how the predicted increase in cases may impact our hospital bed availability and related healthcare resources.”

The innovation team is doing just that with two newly launched surveys that can track where COVID-19 has affected people: the COVID-19 symptom tracker survey and the food access survey.

The food access survey, available online, is intended to help the city learn about what challenges residents are facing when it comes to obtaining food. The data will be used to explore options that could help increase access.

The COVID-19 symptom tracker survey shows where potential infections may be developing most in the region. Through an online survey, the city is able to see where critical healthcare resources should be deployed in order to stay ahead of another outbreak.

Alequresh encourages people to use the service—it could help the city make critical decisions that are driven by data, not assumptions.

“To get ahead of the curve with COVID-19 in Dallas, it’s important that we begin to think proactively. Residents can participate in helping researchers strengthen local models by taking two minutes or less of their day to fill out the City’s COVID-19 tracker,” she says. “This tool is necessary because we know there are data gaps in building out the most robust models for predicting ‘the peak’ of COVID-19 in Dallas.”

A similar tool, but separate from the tracker, is the city’s COVID-19 dashboard. Open to the public, the DFW Regional COVID-19 dashboard provides a general overview of how the pandemic affects us locally. The dashboard was launched last month and is updated every day, so the latest statistics, area cases, tests, and resources in Dallas-Fort Worth are all readily available.

And, if any residents or businesses have COVID-19-related questions, the Office of Innovation has a dedicated information hotline it launched with other city departments, including Dallas 311, Resilience, and Strategic Partnerships. The automated line is open 24/7 with the most up-to-date information related to test sites, economic relief, evictions, small business support, and social services.

Just call 214-670-INFO (available in English and Spanish).

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