Department of Statistics Faculty and Students Partner with Local Public Health Officials during Pandemic

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, public health experts increasingly sought statisticians for their expertise. Local public health experts began fielding essential questions regarding COVID-19 data collection, analysis, and interpretation to understand the infectious disease. Faculty and graduate students in the Department of Statistics began lending their assistance, often in a volunteer capacity, to local public health officials. Here are three of these partnerships as examples of the Department’s outreach to the greater Colorado community.

Professor Jennifer Hoeting is assisting Gunnison County, Colorado, with their COVID-19 response. Gunnison County is a rural county in Colorado and home to the Crested Butte ski resort. Gunnison County had an early large outbreak and in March 2020 had the third highest per capita number of COVID-19 cases of any county in the United States. Professor Hoeting is currently leading the research team – a group of volunteers that reports directly to the head of public health for the county. Team members perform data analyses, design studies, create and maintain the county’s COVID-19 data dashboard, and create reports on the latest scientific findings for covid.

Graduate student David Brown and professor Jay Breidt have been collaborating with the Health District of Northern Larimer County on the design and analysis of the 2019 Triennial Community Health Survey, which examines the health status, needs, and behaviors of the adult population in Larimer County. In 2020, HDNLC is assessing the impacts of COVID-19 by re-surveying the respondents from the 2019 study. Brown and Breidt are assisting with the design and analysis of the updated study, which will allow HDNLC to ask new questions (adherence to public health guidelines, COVID-19 testing results, etc.) and to look for changes in previous responses (mental health status, insurance coverage, etc.). Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment has also conducted a 2020 followup study on the impact of COVID-19, and Brown and Breidt are beginning to assist with the analysis of that survey as well.