What do we know about Data in a Pandemic?

Why does mindful data use matter?

Data is constantly changing, especially during turbulent times like a pandemic. Being mindful about how you are reading each news story and new set of numbers that’s presented will help you to understand the full story and impact on current events. 

Our Guide to Data Consumption

Our COVID-19 Response

To help our community better visualize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and identify the populations that need the most help. 

Take a look at our vulnerable populations map below:

At the beginning of the pandemic, we also created a map detailing the number of cases and deaths per capita by county. However, since that time, news and health organizations have published more timely and accurate data sources for this information, and we have decommissioned this tool. 

Read more about our data-driven response to the pandemic in our series of blogs, which detail the impact COVID-19 has had on our community.

COVID-19 Data Breakdown: PPP Loans in Michigan

Beginning in April 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships had the opportunity to apply for and receive loans to cover their payroll through lenders from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). These are low interest, private loans created through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) established by the United States federal...

Blog Roundup: Navigating COVID-19 Data

Since March of 2020, we’ve been examining, analyzing, and working to help our community to best understand the torrent of data available for the COVID-19 pandemic. This work has culminated in our pandemic resource portal and many blogs dedicated to understanding ever-changing data, navigating Michigan’s pandemic data resources, and examining the...

COVID-19 Data Breakdown: Navigating Michigan’s Vaccine Data Dashboard

Since COVID-19 vaccinations began in December 2020, the state has unveiled another large data portal to access data related to vaccination distribution and coverage. Last year, we reviewed the state’s COVID-19 case and death data portal, and now we’re providing a similar breakdown of the data available from the vaccine data dashboard. For more...

COVID-19 Data Breakdown: New and Ongoing Outbreaks

Since August, the State of Michigan collected in-depth data from local health departments about the settings of COVID-19 outbreaks on a weekly basis. The outbreak data can be used to understand where mitigation measures could be more effective in combating community spread. The state reports two different outbreak types: new outbreaks, which were...
COVID-19 Testing Turnaround Times

COVID-19 Data Breakdown: Statewide Testing Turnaround Times

In mid-November, the State of Michigan began reporting testing turnaround data for all labs conducting tests in the state. The data provided is a 14 day average that is updated weekly. It includes the overall statewide testing turnaround and transportation time with breakdowns by lab type and emergency preparedness region, and by lab name. The...

Household Experiences: COVID-19’s Continued Impact on Parents and Children

In a couple of our previous blogs, we took a look at the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on education and employment. It’s undeniable that many households in the United States and in Metro Detroit have experienced shifts in their household dynamics, with many schools and employers either closing or changing to online communication...

COVID-19 Data Breakdown, Continued: Additional Michigan Data Sources

In addition to the dashboard that we reviewed in our last blog, the State of Michigan publishes a wide variety of additional data and public use datasets about COVID-19. Just above the dashboard, there are six options for exploring additional data. Clicking on one of the links takes you to a new page.Data About Places | Long Term Care Facilities...
Navigating Michigan's Coronavirus Portal

COVID-19 Data Breakdown: Navigating Michigan’s Coronavirus Portal

Michigan’s coronavirus data reporting has gone through substantial changes since the first case was reported during a press conference on March 10th, 2020. The State’s online dashboard contains seven tabs of data, which can be overwhelming without the proper context, so this post will walk users through the different available data. When you...

Evolution of Michigan’s Covid Data Reporting

Since the first COVID-19 case was identified in Michigan, the State has worked to build out a data infrastructure to help Michigan residents understand the situation in the State. From the first few cases being a short list with vague demographic information to the current seven tab profile, the data has evolved quickly. This presents some unique...

Household Experiences: Employment and Income Loss

Earlier in the pandemic, we explored unemployment data at the state and national level and explained some of the limitations of the data. When we published that post in mid-May, there were over 1.3 million Michiganders receiving unemployment insurance. Recently, the US Department of Labor reported over half a million Michigan residents are still...

What do we know we don’t know?

The Infection Rate

Estimates of infection rate are impacted by the way that data is collected, and the consistency of the methods used both in each geography and across multiple geographies (e.g.: in a city vs. on a global scale). It’s difficult to begin to understand the rate of infection without having an accurate count of cases, which is impossible due to early testing limitations.
Even if testing is very accurate, transmission of COVID-19 is extremely variable, depending on social behaviors and environmental factors.


Social distancing—or lack thereof—can have a huge impact on the rate of contact, or how many other people an infected person interacts with in a given span of time. Environmental factors, such as climate, population density, and landscape, also play a role in the likelihood of transmission.
The rate of transmission per contact is another variable, and can be affected by how long the virus can survive on any given surface that an infected person comes in contact with, and how far the virus travels in the air. Additionally, how long an individual is considered contagious is unknown and may vary by individual case.

Symptomaticity Ratio

The ratio of people who are infected and show symptoms versus those who do not show symptoms is largely guesswork at this point. People who are symptomatic are much more likely to seek testing and treatment, or to simply self-isolate, than people who are not. However, the unknown quantity of people who are infected but asymptomatic are still potentially transmitting COVID-19 to others.

The Fatality Rate

The uncertainties detailed in the other factors play a huge role in the accuracy of reported cases and by extension, fatalities.
It’s difficult to determine fatality rate by dividing the number of people who have died by the number of people who have been infected when there isn’t an accurate count of infected individuals or individual fatalities.
Additionally, pre-existing conditions need to be taken into consideration, as rates of infection and death are going to differ in areas where chronic health problems are more prevalent. Hospital capacity also has an impact on fatality rates, as the ability to prevent death from COVID-19 or other illness depends on it.

Learn More

Navigating the ever-changing landscape of pandemic data can be challenging. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite reliable resources to help.

Why It’s So Freaking Hard To Make A Good COVID-19 Model

By Maggie Koerth, Laura Bronner and Jasmine Mithani

Here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, staring out our living room windows like aquarium fish. The question on everybody’s minds: How bad will this really get? Followed quickly by: Seriously, how long am I going to have to live cooped up like this? READ MORE