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WSU scientists develop COVID-19 tracking tool for rural areas

Analytics and other information provided by the COVID Urban Rural Explorer.
The COVID Urban Rural Explorer focuses specifically on highlighting rural urban inequities in COVID trends by county and provides a daily report on rural areas experiencing spikes in COVID-19 cases. 

SPOKANE, Wash. – Scientists at Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine have launched one of the first tracking tools that provides a daily snapshot into COVID-19 cases in rural communities across the country.

Using data from The New York Times and other sources, the COVID Urban Rural Explorer (CURE) focuses specifically on highlighting rural urban inequities in COVID trends by county and provides a daily report on rural areas experiencing spikes in COVID-19 cases. More specifically, the CURE tracker enables users to identify rural counties with both limited hospital capacity and where cases are rapidly growing.

“There are several data dashboards out there showing COVID-19 cases and deaths across the country, but we noticed that few if any are focused on rural-urban disparities,” said Ofer Amram, lead developer of the tool and assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the WSU College of Medicine. “Rural communities have far fewer resources and many unique challenges to preventing and treating COVID-19 such as few intensive care beds at critical access hospitals and insufficient contact tracing, so it’s critically important that we pay better attention to what’s happening in these communities.”

The WSU CURE tracker plots publicly available data on diagnosed cases and deaths from COVID-19 at the county level. Information about cases and deaths is standardized per 100,000 county residents based on U.S. Census data. The visualization is updated daily and provides daily case and death statistics based on a moving seven-day average. Moving daily statistics are also used to compute changes in both cases and deaths, on a percentage basis, for the preceding seven days.

The scientists behind the tracker are optimistic this data could help communities gain earlier insight into COVID-19 case spikes and ultimately reduce and prevent cases.

“Rural areas started out with far fewer cases and deaths than metro areas, but in many parts of the country they’re quickly catching up,” said Pablo Monsivais, co-developer of the tool and associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the WSU College of Medicine. “Given the limitations of health resources in rural communities, this tool can help health professionals respond more quickly to these rural areas of need, and also let us monitor trends in rural urban health inequities.”

Media Contact

  • Christina VerHeul, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, 509-368-6850, christina.verheul@wsu.edu

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