SLU geospatial researchers track COVID-19 movements

Which parts of the region protested, which went to the Ozarks, and which stayed home?

Michael Calhoun
June 26, 2020 - 2:56 am

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -- Geospatial--we've heard a lot about this region becoming a hub for that type of tech. Researchers at SLU are mapping data about the mass movements of people, for either marching or jet skiing, and its effect on COVID-19.

Doctoral student Steve Scroggins says: "The individuals who are staying home more are in west and south county. Going out more tend to be in the city."

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COVID stay home
via Venture Cafe

He says, using smartphone data, they saw a direct correlation between what people were doing and what authorities were advising.

"People were staying home, staying home, but as soon as that order ended, people went right back out."

COVID stay home
via Venture Cafe

He says they even tracked which areas had masses of people going to the Lake of the Ozarks, which went to protests, and which went to both.

"We have these two really important and really large-scale geographical movements occuring in the middle of a pandemic," and because even if you didn't personally go to those places, your neighbors might've, SLU geospatial researchers decided to find out where these gatherers came from.

"We're identifying places of origin of where individuals went to Lake of the Ozarks on Memorial Day weekend and overlapping them with individuals who went to two protest locations the week after. These are individuals who traveled to a location where there's absolutely guaranteed to be crowds."

The data indicates south St. Louis Countians mostly went just to the Lake, while central and west went to both, while north countians mainly stuck to protests. St. Charles County had some areas of people doing both.

COVID movements
via Venture Cafe

Saint Louis University scientists also want to use location data on an individualized level to track and predict COVID symptoms and spread.

Associate Director of the SLU Geospatial Institute Enbal Shacham explains their app, which is awaiting approval from the app stores:

"We want to be able to say 'ok, in the morning you felt like this, in the evening you felt like this, are there changes that should be monitored? We also want to be able to track locations where individuals have been so we can report back and say,'this area may have an exposure and an increased risk of COVID."

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This presentation was during Venture Café, which continues not in Cortex but via virtual gathering.