2016 Mardi Gras parades (GTS Productions/Shutterstock.com)

Web app visualizes intersection of COVID, government policies and mobility

To better understand the relationships between human mobility, government policies and cases of COVID-19, researchers at the University of Miami have developed an interactive web application that illustrates how pandemic-related policies affected the movement of people.

The app was built with data from three independent sources: Apple Maps, which provides data on human movement via walking, driving and public transportation; Oxford University’s COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, which provides data on government policies implemented during the pandemic; and global cases of COVID-19 gathered by Johns Hopkins University. Users can select a specific state or county in the U.S. – or another country -- and see how mobility and COVID-19 cases changed over time or in response to government policies or social circumstances.

“The web application produces interesting visualizations that can reveal fascinating trends specific to a given area that might otherwise not be recognized,” Shouraseni Sen Roy, a professor in the Department of Geography and Sustainable Development, told U Miami News.

For example, the application shows a spike in human mobility in New Orleans at the end of February 2020, which coincided with Mardi Gras celebrations. A month later, there was a corresponding spike in COVID-19 cases.

Although the application is specific to the pandemic, the framework could be easily modified to create a similar application for natural disasters -- as long as appropriate datasets are available, Roy said.

“At a macro level, understanding movement patterns of people can help influence decision-making for higher-level policies, like social gathering restrictions, mask recommendations and tracking and tracing the spread of infectious diseases,” she said. “At a local level, understanding the movement of people can lead to more specific decisions, like where to set up testing sites or vaccination sites.”

The full study is available online.

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