Nov. 23, 2020
Data scientists mobilize to track COVID-19 cases and help with Alberta’s pandemic response
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Tyler Williamson, PhD, received the call that the City of Calgary needed municipal and provincial data to help build a response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
He jumped into action, deploying his team’s big data prowess to tackle the pandemic in real time.
“I reached out to my colleagues at the Centre for Health Informatics on a Saturday morning and they just got to work,” says Williamson, associate director of the Centre for Health Informatics. “We’re very fortunate to have a team of highly skilled data scientists at the university in a time like this. They were poised and ready to tackle this threat.”
Using data from the Government of Alberta, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Johns Hopkins University, the researchers developed a provincial breakdown of when and where the virus is spreading, while contrasting Alberta’s data to the data of public health interventions taking place globally.
“The intention has always been helping decision makers when they're contemplating policy changes—ensuring they have the information they need to be able to make those important decisions,” says Williamson.
One notable policy the team helped with is the mandatory wearing of masks in indoor public spaces, which came into effect in Calgary on August 1.
Now months into the pandemic Williamson and his colleagues continue to monitor COVID-19 trends to ensure the province’s health system does not become overwhelmed and are working with Alberta Health Services to fully utilize COVID-19 data collected through the health system.
Dr. Tyler Williamson, BSc’05, PhD’11, is the associate director of the Centre for Health Informatics at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), an associate professor of biostatistics in the Department of Community Health Sciences, and a member of the O’Brien Institute of Public Health and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.