Responses from Amanda M. Melvin, lead public health analyst, HSR.health.
Geospatial data is information that describes events, objects, or features within a location on or near the surface of the Earth.
The role geospatial data plays in the safe return to school has to do with where the school is situated in addition to where the students and teachers who attend that school live. This information allows us to use geospatially encoded data surrounding the COVID crisis to determine the relative safety of a school. We also consider the surrounding area of the school, the students and teachers, and environmental data pertaining to the school itself. All of these data points are involved in determining the probability of disease transmission within the community and to understand how best to mitigate the associated risks.
Can AI be used reliably to track and identify the risk of disease transmission in a school environment? What about new variants of COVID-19?
In short, there is little AI can’t do. Using AI, data scientists are able to develop new solutions to critical world problems on a daily basis. For example, data scientists are now able to leverage broad sets of geocoded data and machine learning models to identify the risk of disease transmission continuously across various circumstances and environments.
In regards to identifying the risks associated with the unfortunate rise in new variants of COVID-19, yes, AI can be used to reliably track and identify these. A defined place like a school and individual classrooms have specific air flow patterns that can be modeled to test viral propogation. The movements and interactions of teachers and students within that space can also be modeled to assess the level of potential exposure to infectious diseases.
This goes for both known and novel variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Anticipating the next dominant variant is critical to an effective response.
In identifying risks in a school setting, how do geospatial data and AI work together?
Geospatial data and AI work hand and hand to paint a complete picture of the risks in a school setting. Geospatial data informs the initial conditions of this analysis. By leveraging data that represents the ZIP Codes or home counties of the student body, teachers, administrators, parents, and others who may frequent the school, the model can accurately capture and inform an accurate representation of that school or district’s specific COVID-19 situation.