When It Comes to COVID-19 Data, Now You Can See What the Mayor Sees

Eric Garcetti opens up his daily coronavirus summaries to the public
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Mayor Eric Garcetti has long championed the use of data as a tool to guide his decision-making. He has talked about the topic almost since the moment he was elected in 2013, and his website contains a link to a page full of city data, where users can digitally hunt and peck for information on everything from the $10 billion-plus municipal budget to public safety to transportation patterns.

In the period that Los Angeles has battled the coronavirus, Garcetti, in addition to talking with health experts and leaders across the country, has been armed with a sheaf of charts, figures, and information. In his evening briefings he regularly updates the number of area individuals who have contracted COVID-19, along with testing figures and the amount of hospital resources available.

Now Garcetti is making the information he utilizes available to the public. At his Monday evening briefing, he said his daily data summary would be posted online, at coronavirus.lacity.org/data.

“Starting tonight, what I get every day, you’ll get every single day,” he said.

The first summary details information for April 13, and indeed, it’s full of fresh material. A page with the tallies of deaths in various states has a time stamp of 2 p.m. on Monday. The county case-tracking information and comparisons between Los Angeles County and New York State were from the afternoon.

Garcetti’s Monday report comes in at 37 pages, and is replete with bar graphs and spiky charts. The small print at the bottom of each page details where the data set comes from. This includes expected sources, such as the L.A. County Department of Health and information from the Centers for Disease Control, along with perhaps less-obvious providers, among them Facebook and the Environmental Protection Agency.

There is an array of information, starting with the daily tallies; on Monday, that included the number of confirmed cases in L.A. County (239 new cases; 9,420 total, though that will surpass 10,000 once Tuesday’s 670 new cases are figured in), along with similar tracking for the state, the country and the world (1.9 million global cases). It also highlights hospital preparation, revealing Sunday’s capacity of 2,132 available beds in the county (1,601 acute care beds and 531 ICU beds) and a stockpile of 1,025 ventilators.

From corona-virus.la/data

Scroll down and there is further hospital information. A page with figures from a source labeled “County HavBed Bed Tracking” shows that, on Sunday, 566 ICU beds and 408 ventilators were occupied by COVID-19 patients; both of those are down from recent highs; on April 7, COVID-19 patients were utilizing 657 ICU beds and 507 ventilators.

The data also shows what looks like an increase in capacity—the aforementioned 531 available ICU beds on April 12 is more than double the 247 beds that were open on April 7. That’s a promising increase given the long-discussed potential surge of sick patients who may need help breathing.

From corona-virus.la/data

Other pages indicate how Los Angeles is faring compared to the hardest-hit places, including New York; numerous factors have been cited for the vast differences, including the greater residential density and subway travel in New York, along with L.A.’s early embrace of strict social distancing measures.

A comparison page lists the U.S. counties (with more than 300,000 people) with the highest number of per capita cases—Rockland, New York, which is considered part of the NYC metro area, has 2,371 cases per 100,000 residents; three other New York counties are in the top five, and all count at least 1,413 cases per 100,000 residents.

Los Angeles, by comparison, has 88 cases per 100,000 residents.

A more sobering figure is deaths: New York City has recorded 82.1 deaths per 100,000 residents, and New Orleans, fourth on the list, has seen 60.1 deaths. In Los Angeles the rate is 2.7 deaths per 100,000 residents.

Another L.A. County data set shows divergent paths that bode well for the future—blue boxes detail a caseload that has gone higher each day, while a yellow line reveals that the rate of increase has dropped; in late March, the county was seeing a caseload rise of about 20 percent each day. In the past week, there have been only single-digit increases.

corona-virus.la/data

The data provides information on testing and available test kits (both expanding, as Garcetti has noted in the briefings), as well as updates on calls to a mayoral hotline. Stills from Sigalert.com show a cascade of green freeways at rush hour last Friday evening and Monday morning, and another page tracks a sinking city crime rate—total crime dropped 31 percent from March 12 through April 11, compared to the same period in 2019.

For some data sets, Garcetti’s summary confirms what is already obvious: take the Air Quality Index scores, updated at 10:07 a.m. on Monday. In January, L.A. County had an average daily score of 70.7, based on pollutants in the air, and in February the figure was 59.8—both months ranked as “moderate,” according to the EPA. In March and April, the pollutants count has fallen below 50, for a “good” classification. On Monday, the region’s score was 30.


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