California shares coronavirus modeling tool online for researchers and residents alike

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California health officials this week shared an assessment tool online that breaks down state and local coronavirus modeling.

The public health department’s COVID Assessment Tool allows researchers and residents alike to access short-term forecasts, future outlooks and different scenarios statewide and for 33 of California’s 58 counties.

The beta version of the tool was released on Monday and discussed during Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus briefing on Thursday.

The governor said he wanted to open the website to “citizen scientists” to help build the state’s modeling capacity, as well as all Californians, so they can better understand the impact of COVID-19.

“We want to give them access through an open source platform to all of the available data that we have that I have, that our health professionals have, in a way that we don’t believe has been done anywhere else in the United States,” Newsom said. “This is a deep dive for transparency and openness.”

Newsom was also expected to instruct all state agencies to make coronavirus information publicly accessible, as long as it does not include information that will violate privacy.

Officials explained that they hope the tool can lead to collaboration with other states and researchers.

“We know that county health officers and health directors are using this information on a regular basis, not to support their opinions, but to guide their decisions that are driving some of our actions as it relates to our response to COVID-19,” California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly said Thursday.

He explained that “nowcasts” look at how fast COVID-19 is currently spreading, while forecasts allow officials to see where coronavirus cases can be in the next few weeks.

Additionally, the tool allows officials to look at long-term impacts of the coronavirus under various scenarios.

“This tool allows us to take our current data, whether that’s our hospitalization data, our case numbers, understanding some of those non-pharmaceutical interventions that we have in place, like wearing your face covering, staying physically distant, and where we will end up in the next few weeks and months,” Ghaly said. “It allows us to model exactly how we need to design activities and choices for today to help us plan for the future.”

He stressed that the goal is to keep Californians as safe and as low risk as possible amid the ongoing pandemic.

During the news conference, Newsom also said that officials reserve the right to pause the reopening process if coronavirus transmissions and hospitalizations continue to increase.

“We are seeing roughly 56,000 new cases just the last 14 days, and so points of obvious and real concern,” the governor said.

As of Thursday afternoon, the state had a total of 197,588 coronavirus cases with 5,750 deaths, according to a Los Angeles Times tally.

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