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Geographic Monitoring Technique used to help spot COVID-19 clusters quickly

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Posted at 5:00 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 16:57:21-05

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS — Texas A&M continues to do their part in assisting public health officials, with vital information, to help stop the increasing spread of COVID-19.

Back in Nov., KRHD reported on the university linking socioeconomic factors to the spread of the virus, and now, university personnel are assisting a team who are looking at how geography, also helps highlight clusters, and hotspots for COVID-19.

A research team, including Texas A&M Geography professor Daniel Goldberg, is using a new method called GeoMEDD, to discover ways to track the virus, and identify cluster areas more quickly.

"It's unique, in that, it uses 3 levels of geography from household level, to neighborhood level, to larger community level, and by doing that, it is able to identify emerging clusters as they are starting to form," Goldberg said.

Providing public health officials, a resource guide, with information they need to take adequate steps in the appropriate time frame.

"It's very important to have accurate, and highly detailed, information about where to the disease is spreading, because, there is limited resources in terms of people, time, effort, and money, that public health departments can spend," Goldberg added.

Goldberg says, putting positive cases on a map, allows geographic techniques to shine, and highlight, infection hot-spots starting to form.

"Once those tests come back positive, they are converted into latitude, and longitude, using the persons postal address. Once we have a pinpoint for the person, we can identify the household where they live, and the neighborhood they live in," Goldberg said.

Goldberg also says, the GeoMEDD method can be key in identifying other outbreaks, outside, of the current pandemic we are in, including flu epidemics, and even overdoses, to help decrease illness and loss of life.

"If its in a drug overdose scenario, public health professionals, and law enforcement, would be able to see that in this particular community, something is happening," Goldberg added.

Focusing on the 'where' a spread is happening, Goldberg says looking at a problem from a geographic perspective, allows you to understand different characteristics of a problem that, are not, provided with traditional statistical approaches.

Goldberg says, the software system is currently being used in Ohio, where the bulk of the research team works and lives. Goldberg says, the new method is available for any community, once they connect with the research team.