Congratulations to Professor Debra Laefer and  NYU School of Global Public Health Assistant Professor Tom Kirchner! Their COVID-19 research on “DETER: Developing Epidemiology mechanisms in Three-dimensions to Enhance Response” was selected by the New York State GIS Association for a a 2020 Fight Against COVID Application/ Dashboard Award. The New York State GIS Association, a group of Geographic Information Systems professionals, cited the opportunities for longitudinal investigations Laefer’s work opens up.

Employing novel, three-dimensional geospatial methods, as well as two-dimensional virus mapping techniques that date back to 1854, the team captured hyper-local data on movement and behavioral choices of people when leaving high infection COVID-19 medical facilities: they created precisely detailed spatio-temporal records of what people touched, where they went, and whether they were wearing personal protective equipment, thereby identifying surfaces and locations most likely to be disease transmission points (including public transportation and for hire transportation like Uber).

Collectively, the team spent over 1,500 hours recording observations across all hours of the day and days of the week. They collected 5,065 records documenting the behavior of 6,075 individuals around 19 hospitals and urgent care clinics across four of New York City’s five boroughs. Observing subjects from a distance for periods of up to 20 minutes, the researchers documented the gender of the subject, objects touched, route taken, and destinations. Each record also included locational information about the medical facility, the weather, and 61 other attributes related to the demographics of the facility’s zip code. The records show clear trends over time and differences in behavior by gender in both transportation choices and PPE usage. These include a higher PPE usage rate at from the very start and a visible increase in mask wearing after the Governor’s mask mandate.

The other 2020 GIS Applications/Dashboard awardees were the Livingston County Planning Department; the Rockland County Planning Department; the Suffolk County Office of GIS; and the Erie County Office of Geographic Information Services.

Funding for this project was made possible by a NSF Rapid Research Award, 3DS, and ARISE.