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New Institute for Data Analytics examines sickness, unemployment in era of COVID-19

Published on July 08, 2020

New Institute for Data Analytics examines sickness, unemployment in era of COVID-19

Screenshot of COVID-19 cases statewide

Screenshot of COVID-19 by town

Screenshot of COVID-19 cases/deaths by age

Faculty researchers at Eastern Connecticut State University have launched a new, data-driven enterprise to analyze public health, economic and social issues in the state of Connecticut. The first two projects of the Eastern Institute for Data Analytics (EIDA) are examining real-time trends in sickness and unemployment in the era of COVID-19.

“Our goal is to provide information to the general public and to provide policymakers with insights that may shape decision making in the state,” said Yaw Nsiah, chair of Eastern’s Department of Health Sciences and EIDA co-director.

“While a lot of national health and other information is available, it is often impossible or difficult for the average person to find useful information about their state, their county and their town. The Eastern Institute for Data Analytics will make this information more accessible, and will provide free, expert analysis and data regarding public issues in the state.”

The institute’s COVID-19 website draws data from state agencies and features a variety of up-to-date maps and graphs that depict cases, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19 at the local and statewide levels. Interactive models break out the data by age and gender, make fatality projections and consider the impact of social distancing on the spread of the disease.

unemployment screenshot
Screenshots of continued unemployment claims by industry; the second chart shows the proportionality of the first chart.

EIDA’s unemployment analysis looks at initial and continued unemployment claims before and during the pandemic. Interactive maps show unemployment claims/rates at county and town levels whereas color-coded graphs break out the data by age, industry, race and sex. Alternate versions of the graphs give viewers a proportional look at the various unemployment breakdowns in Connecticut.

EIDA is led by six faculty researchers with expertise in public health, mathematical and statistical modeling, data science, computational biology and geographic information systems.

“We are well-versed in proper methods for analyzing and interpreting data, which is central to everything that we do,” said Garret Dancik, computer science professor and EIDA’s other co-director. “In some cases, we are applying familiar methods to new areas, which is exciting.”

Yaw Nsiah, health sciences professor and chair, has expertise in virology and public health and is currently overseeing the development of COVID-19 models.

Garrett Dancik, computer science professor, is a data scientist and computational biologist who is analyzing a variety of data and implementing statistical models.

Chantal Larose, mathematics professor, is an expert statistician and data scientist who is using her skills to uncover insights from COVID-19 data.

Anthony Aidoo, mathematics professor, is an expert in developing mathematical models in epidemiology and is modeling COVID-19.

Meredith Metcalf, environmental earth science professor, is an expert in geographic information systems who is developing data maps by county and town.

Brendan Cunningham, economics professor, is developing statistical models for county-wide projections of COVID-19.

The EIDA aligns with the coursework and research interests of participating faculty members and will result in new opportunities for undergraduate students, such as internships, independent studies and capstone experiences.

While the work of the institute most closely aligns with Eastern’s new Data Science major (offered starting in the fall 2020 semester), Dancik says the interdisciplinary mission and faculty expertise will attract students who major in health sciences, computer science, mathematics, economics and environmental earth sciences.

The institute is interested in partnering with local and state agencies and looks to conduct analyses of other outbreaks, including influenza, cancer and opioid use. Comments, suggestions and project ideas may be sent to eida@easternct.edu.

To view EIDA’s current projects, visit https://eida.easternct.edu/. To sign up for a weekly email of county-specific COVID-19 statistics, visit https://eida.easternct.edu/shiny/app/covid-ct.

Written by Michael Rouleau