Announcing the WeCountCOVID19.com Survey

One of the reports from the WeCountCOVID19.com survey, pulled on April 20, 2020. A partnership between Code for Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has produced WeCountCOVID19.com, a survey designed to count all possible cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin regardless of whether the individual has had a positive, negative or no coronavirus test at all.

This post announces the launch of the WeCountCOVID19.com survey, a joint effort between Code for Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; the survey is designed to count all possible cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin regardless of whether the individual has had a positive, negative, or no coronavirus test at all. The survey has been live for a few weeks, but this past weekend, through lots of volunteer efforts, the website was updated and now offers reports on analyses of the (anonymous) data from the survey. This post describes some of what has happened ‘behind the scenes’ from the perspectives of a few of the people involved.

Every voice counts. We all count. Please take time to share the WeCountCOVID19.com survey with anyone who might be sick in Wisconsin, so that they can take the survey and we can help to share their voice. (More information is provided at the end of the post)

Behind the scenes at WeCountCOVID19.com

Brian Barkley, a data scientist, statistician, and one of the original founders of Code for Milwaukee, proudly cites the tech hub’s original creed of delivering public services that improve the lives of Milwaukeeans. He recognizes the importance of that approach to address the needs of communities, such as the north side of Milwaukee, during this pandemic. For this reason, he hopes that the WeCountCOVID19.com survey will be used to drive a health and financial policy response within the city. He wants every voice to be heard and everyone to be counted.

The development of the WeCountCOVID19.com survey has been organic from the beginning. “I had the idea of designing a project that allowed people to report on their symptoms given the limited availability of test kits,” said Amy Kalkbrenner, an associate professor in the Zilber School of Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “I wrote the survey, obtained approvals, and led efforts to do outreach, so that people knew to participate.” Her path to leading this Code For Milwaukee project wound through the university where she obtained her PhD, the University of North Carolina, where it just so happened that Brian Barkley also attended for his doctoral degree. A mutual friend put them in touch with one another, and it was through Brian that she learned of the vision and the work of CfM.

Amy, an air pollution epidemiologist, with experience in measuring health outcomes across geography and time, identified the problem that this project sought to address not long after learning of the COVID-19 virus outbreak. Her experience in working with the other leaders and members of her team has been inspiring during a time of fear. She has been impressed with everyone’s dedication and hard work. Amy is hopeful that future UWM MPH students can obtain internships and field experience by partnering with CfM.

This is also the first CfM project for Jordan Siem, and it has far exceeded any expectations he originally had. Jordan mentioned that “it feels good to feel empowered to make a difference in an era of powerlessness.” He has brought the same Python programming, excel, data analysis, data visualization, project management, communication, and problem solving skills to work on the project that he utilizes as an employee at Zywave. The analysis and feedback he contributed to the survey proved invaluable and kept the project trending on the trajectory they envisioned from the start. “I know my contributions aren’t the same as healthcare workers, however, I’m glad I’m able to do my part.”

Jordan’s personal metric of success for the project is to cultivate a better understanding of why people from underserved communities have been affected disproportionately. He also strives to discover the most effective solutions to delivering the resources and care to these communities. He echoes Amy’s sentiment by acknowledging that the team reaching their goal begins with members of the community taking their survey, so they have a clear picture of who needs help.

A request: Please share the WeCountCOVID19.com survey across Wisconsin!

The WeCountCOVID19.com survey is designed to count every potential case of coronavirus infection in Wisconsin, whether or not the individual has been tested. If you are sick, please take the short, confidential, 5-minute survey. Please also share with your friends and family in Wisconsin, so that they can take the survey on their computer or smartphone.

Every voice counts. We all count. As more people take the survey, we will be able to report more analyses that help to highlight the common stories and the voices behind the data. We are working to share this information with citizens and community organizations to help understand what and where the risks are.

A Note from the author, Shaun Wanzo:

As a member of Cream City Stories, I have had the opportunity to compose the blog posts that highlight the different projects Code For Milwaukee has in the pipeline to address the issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The energy and effort and dedication I have witnessed from all of the participants has been nothing short of inspirational. I can recall Romke Eduardo De Haan’s post that advertised CFM’s initiative and the need for individuals with a wide range of skills sets to get involved. His statement of how nobody was coming to save us really resonated with me and obviously it struck the right nerve in others. I’ve admired the verve of all participants to not only contribute to the different projects but to also learn about the needs of some of the most depressed areas of the city. It is all of our hope that you spread the word about the WeCountCOVID19.com survey.