Authors: Nima Agah, Devan Desai, Annabel Howell, Samia Noor, and Kenneth Rogerson
Contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic is both a blessing and a curse. It can find people who have been exposed and isolate them so that the spread of the virus is potentially slowed or even stopped. But its implementation brings challenges, especially for counties and cities. The main hurdles to contact tracing are 1) funding; 2) personal information privacy concerns and 3) communicating effectively to constituents about the virus and the need for contact tracing.
A survey of North Carolina’s 100 counties found that most communicate with residents through a website, but the pages dedicated to COVID-19 are widely variable in their clarity, completeness and helpfulness.
We found that 75 counties have COVID dashboards, 32 of which are updated at least once a week.
Does the county have a COVID count dashboard?
75 out of the 100 counties in North Carolina had a COVID dashboard uploaded on their website. Of these counties, 33 were the same as the statewide COVID dashboard (https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard), while 44 had also developed their own county-specific dashboard. 4 were unclear.
We found that the websites of 66 counties only had links to statewide and federal resources, while 34 also connected citizens to resources specific to the county. The types of county-specific resources varied, but commonly included connections to initiatives like food banks and mental health helplines.
Population size provides an interesting contextualization for these discrepancies. On average, we found that counties that developed their own COVID-19 dashboards had larger populations than those that did not.
- Average population of all counties: 106,543
- Average populations of counties that developed their own COVID-19 dashboards (i.e. not same as general): 109,410. Smallest population: 11,231; Largest population: 1,111,761.
- Average population of counties with no COVID-19 dashboard at all: 60,288. Smallest population: 11,231; Largest population: 372,909.
Finally, here is a link to a regularly updated count of COVID-19 cases in each North Carolina county. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/north-carolina-coronavirus-cases.html