WMU librarian maintaining state hospital COVID-19 data online

Contact: Sara Volmering
A photo of the outside of Waldo Library.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—To help researchers now and in the future, curated state hospital COVID-19 data is now publicly available and ready for analysis at Western Michigan University Libraries.

Information on statewide hospital occupancy and availability of personal protective equipment is currently tracked on the Michigan.gov COVID-19 website, but it is not publicly archived or available in a format that can be easily analyzed. To preserve this historically relevant information, Daria Orlowska, data librarian and assistant professor in the University Libraries, captured and compiled the data in a downloadable file format that allows users to view and analyze it more efficiently.

Her work also documents the changes made to variables tracked by the state, which will help researchers understand how reporting changed over time.

"During the first month of release, the variables changed a lot. Some hospital units and PPE status were captured one day, disappeared the next, only to reappear shuffled around with a name change," says Orlowska. "I decided on a set dataset structure and collapsed variations in name into the same column when I was confident that they were the same, documenting the name changes and dates they were in use."

A headshot of Daria Orlowska.

Daria Orlowska

Orlowska's Michigan Hospital Tracking focuses on Michigan hospital occupancy and personal protective equipment availability. She began capturing the data on April 2 after identifying the need to preserve it, not only for potential use during the crisis but also for future research opportunities.

She also developed Coronavirus Michigan COVID-19 Overview Tracking that aggregates demographic data of confirmed and potential COVID-19 cases in Michigan. Both data sets are free to access and download through GitHub. They will continue to be updated daily as reports are made available by the state.

"I had already been tracking data released by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services when the pandemic hit Michigan at the beginning of March and was struck by the changes in data reporting," Orlowska says. "There was a lot of speculation about the state of hospital preparedness, so when the Statewide Available PPE and Bed Tracking webpage was first made public in early April, I knew that aggregating released data and preserving the original webpages would be important."

The development of these data sets is one of several ongoing efforts to collect data and stories for current and future research about the pandemic. Other initiatives include the archiving of regional government COVID-19 information webpages and dashboards, and a survey focused on collecting personal memories and experiences from southwest Michigan residents during the pandemic.

Contact daria.orlowska@wmich.edu with questions about these data sets and other data collection efforts from the University Libraries.

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