Pittsfield— It hasn’t been delivering good news, of late.
But, when it comes to offering up-to-date information about the state of the coronavirus pandemic in Pittsfield, the people behind the city’s COVID-19 Community Impact Dashboard say it’s essential.
“It’s about having the transparency, as much as we can, to show the folks out there what’s going on, to show the impact of the policies and the orders that are put in place, and to show the impact of the nonaction,” said Commissioner of Public Works and Utilities Ricardo Morales.
The city launched its coronavirus dashboard in the spring, modeling it after the coronavirus tracker kept by Johns Hopkins University, said Morales, a self-described data nerd who manages the public-facing tool with the city’s GIS coordinator, Ryan Grennan. Morales said Grennan brought his idea to create a localized version of the dashboard to the city’s COVID-19 Task Force, and after winning approval set out to make it a reality.
Pittsfield’s dashboard provides a hyperlocal snapshot of the state of the coronavirus in the city, said Morales, updated whenever the new data becomes available from the city’s Health Department — whether day or night.
“At any moment, when updated information comes in, I basically sit down and start updating the information in our system,” Morales said.
Before the pandemic touched down in Pittsfield, crunching community health data was nowhere close to being in the job description for Morales or Grennan, noted Mayor Linda Tyer. When her administration launched its COVID-19 Task Force in the spring, bringing together health leaders and department heads, senior staff stepped up to take on new responsibilities, Morales said.
“Everyone has been working diligently outside of their normal roles,” Morales said.
The dashboard now is a primary tool that Tyer’s administration uses to push out new coronavirus information and keep the public apprised of the state of the coronavirus in Pittsfield. Grennan said the same software he uses for mapping purposes, called ArcGIS, also underlies the dashboard.
“Without them, this would not have been possible,” she said. “The dashboard is open and accessible to anyone who can get to the city’s website.”
The dashboard went through a number of versions, Tyer said, and is tweaked often to account for developments on the pandemic front. Among the data presented on the dashboard are confirmed local infections, the death toll, testing rates, information about testing sites, public schools and more.
Soon, Tyer said, the city will be adding information about who is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as where they can go to receive a vaccination. Facing a crush of demand from the public about the vaccine’s rollout, the city last week launched a dedicated hotline to push vaccination information into the community (413-449-5575).
When the dashboard launched, it was receiving upward of 2,000 page views per day, Morales said, and since has leveled off to about 800 daily. He said residents have been pulling data from the dashboard and sharing it across social media platforms, propelling the information to a wider audience.
“We made the very clear, very distinct decision of having a dashboard that informs the community,” Grennan said.