Using Data to Inform Decisions During the Pandemic


In early March, USAFacts had begun to pack its bags for a road trip to Washington, DC, and Austin, Texas, where it planned to share State of the Union in Numbers with lawmakers, journalists, SXSW attendees and the public. COVID-19 scotched those plans. Glued to the news and staying mindful of our mission — to provide a data-driven portrait of the US — the team noticed lots of people were searching for facts about the virus.

Journalists, medical professionals, elected officials, businesses, homeless shelters, banks, students, teachers, colleagues, neighbors and friends were doing their best to share facts related to the pandemic. Noticing a gap in holistic county-level data, USAFacts launched an initiative focused on making key government-based facts available. 

A Coronavirus Fact Campaign

As a result, the team pushed facts, reports and data visualizations related to the pandemic across USAFacts' communication touchpoints. While the original government data sources are readily available, it isn’t always easy to obtain. In addition, data isn’t integrated, making it difficult to research specific issues.  

We created access to government facts at USAFacts Coronavirus Hub and Map

Who is using the data and what they are doing with it is inspiring. The data is used to make real-time  decisions. Organizations and first responders are using it to inform their capacity to marshal people, care and resources. Others are referencing the data to inform news reporting, make personal, professional and civic decisions, or simply to get a better picture of what’s unfolding.

Measuring What Matters Most

As communicators, often we are asked to report on the efficacy of campaigns based on how much share of voice, impact, influence, traffic or reach they achieve. During coronavirus, it seems our best campaigns do more than that. Helping the helpers is the more — a more that ultimately will exist as part of the story of how the country took on a pandemic.

 Lisa Conquergood is director, marketing & communications at USAFacts