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. 

Check out our data map resources below:

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, 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...

Household Experiences: The COVID-19 Pandemic and Food Sufficiency

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, food insufficiency in the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was at the forefront of many organizations’ mission. D3 has helped organizations such as Forgotten Harvest understand where potential food insecurity exists to help better serve communities and how to manage limited resources most...

Household Experiences: The Pandemic’s Impact on Housing

As the effects of COVID-19 on various facets of life continue to be examined, an important milestone approaches at the end of this month. On June 30th, Governor Whitmer’s executive order issuing a moratorium on evictions in Michigan is set to expire. As this date draws closer, we turn our attention to the effects of COVID-19 on housing security...
Household Experiences and Education

Household Experiences During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Impact on Education

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on data collection and consumption, and also on various facets of our community. It’s no surprise with schools being closed and moving to online learning that there has also been a significant effect on education data on a national, state, and local level.  We’re going to take some time to look at...

Data Collection in a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives of many Americans. People are limiting their contact to the outside world through fewer trips to work and public places, and many have temporarily relocated. Despite this, the federal government continues to collect important data on the American people. Government officials, researchers, and private...

Economic Impact: Unemployment During the Pandemic

It goes without saying that one of the major concerns surrounding COVID-19 in the Detroit area is the impact that the pandemic has had on employment. After years of employment growth, many states are facing a period of economic uncertainty, and our area is no exception.  We’re here to take a look at some of the numbers surrounding jobs in...
Data Quality: Examining the Impact of COVID-19 on the African American Community

Data Quality: Examining the Impact of COVID-19 on the African American Community

There are many uncertainties around the data related to coronavirus in the world. As we pointed out in an earlier blog, the state’s reporting originally had almost 30% of deaths listed as “race unknown”. This didn’t stop local and national news outlets from running with the information that 40% of people who died from coronavirus in Michigan were...

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