NEW TOOL: COVID-19 Mapper for Erie County, NY

As a core component of the ILR Buffalo Co-Lab’s Good DEEDS initiative, High Road Policy (HRP) is committed to democratizing local and regional data to empower residents and community institutions, inform public policy discussions, and provide data-driven insights to advance an equitable and democratic economy. Keeping with that mission in the midst of COVID-19 means shedding light on the disparate ways in which the virus is affecting our communities, and how its uneven geographic distribution is flowing from and reinforcing the broader patterns of spatial inequality that exist in society.

Toward that end, the Buffalo Co-Lab, through HRP, has launched a new COVID-19 Mapper for Erie County, New York. The COVID-19 case data come directly from Erie County’s official online coronavirus tracker. In other words, HRP’s mapping tool depends on, and is in no way intended to replace, Erie County’s existing resources. Rather, our platform is meant to supplement the County’s tracking efforts by joining selected demographic and socioeconomic indicators to its regularly-updated ZIP Code-level COVID-19 case data. The purpose is to dig deeper into the pattern of cases by exploring and understanding its associations with various social and demographic phenomena throughout Erie County.

Acknowledging the urgency of monitoring the uneven pattern of COVID-19 cases in as close to real time as possible, HRP has launched its Mapper in a “Phase 0” rollout so that it can be put to immediate use. Note, however, that the Phase 0 version currently has limited functionality. At present, the tool is a simple interactive web map showing the distribution of confirmed COVID-19 cases by ZIP Code. The web map highlights ZIP Codes where persons of color make up a majority of the population. Clicking on a ZIP code will call up a window with selected demographic and socioeconomic information for that ZIP code, as well as the number of confirmed COVID cases and the rate of COVID cases per 1,000 persons (the pop-up window will have a scroll bar – users will need to use that scroll bar to see all of the variables).

The variables available in our Phase 0 rollout include:

  • Total ZIP code population
  • ZIP code population of selected racial and ethnic groups
  • Median household income
  • Poverty rate (as a % of population for whom poverty status is determined)
  • Total number of households
  • Number of households that are housing cost-burdened (i.e., households pay more than 30% of their gross monthly income on housing)
  • Housing cost burden rate (as % of households)
  • Count of COVID-19 cases
  • COVID-19 case rate (per 1,000 persons)

In the next Phase of development (Phase 1), we intend to expand on the set of variables included in the tool, incorporating additional social, environmental, and economic indicators from a wide variety of data sources.

Phase 2 will enable toggling, so that users can turn layers on and off to compare ZIP code-level demographic, socioeconomic, and environmental patterns to patterns of COVID-19.

Finally, Phase 3 will integrate output layers from spatial and statistical analyses that quantify and map clusters in COVID cases relative to clusters in other selected indicator variables.

As we continue to build out the Mapper in these three Phases, we will be providing regular insights and preliminary findings on our HRP blog. Please check back regularly for updates.

To access the Phase 0 Erie County COVID-19 Mapper, click here.