May 26, 2020 • By Xanat Hernandez
Like many of us, Matthew Littman MSBA ’20 found himself with some extra time during quarantine. Though his classes in the Master of Science in Business Analytics program at The UCI Paul Merage School of Business continued remotely, he knew he wanted to apply what he was learning to the current crisis.
He created a COVID-19 visualization tool on Tableau—the U.S Severity Dashboard—which assigns a “severity score” and a “response score” to different regions of the U.S. The goal of Littman’s analysis was to prove that a combination of social distancing and government measures can contribute to a decrease in the severity of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Littman defines his severity score as the number of weekly infections of the novel coronavirus and deaths, multiplied by their respective growth rates, divided by the total population. The severity score in his tool can be adjusted to give different weights to infections and deaths.
“What’s different about this visualization is that I incorporated growth rates which will tell you the trajectory that each region is on,” said Littman. “You can see how the different states are doing and even get down to the county level.”
The tool demonstrates the counties and states with the most severe rates of infections and deaths. Sources for his data include John Hopkins University, The Atlantic’s COVID tracking project, and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).
The dashboard also includes the social distance grade calculated by Unacast through anonymous cell data. When Littman reached out to Unacast for permission to utilize the data set, he was greeted by a UCI alumna Laura Spinazze who was happy to help out.
Littman also reached out to PhD students at The Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences for geotagged Twitter data that gauges the local attitude towards the pandemic and social distancing.
“The hypothesis is that the earlier a region started social distancing and the more people adhered to policies, the less severe of an outbreak,” explained Littman. “This project is unique because it pulls together data from so many sources to capture the full picture. The analysis could give insight to citizens as well as policymakers.”
His work explores both the severity score, the response score, and the relationship between the two.
Two Merage School professors have helped and advised Littman throughout this project—Arvind Sathi, who teaches Littman’s advanced machine learning class, and Vibhanshu Abhishek, associate professor of information systems.
“This dashboard is a powerful tool; it’s a one-stop-shop for all COVID-19 metrics,” said Abhishek. “It’s beautiful to see how Matt and his team have applied what they learned from their MSBA program and created something so impactful. I’m proud to be a part of this project.”
He has also recruited a team of his MSBA classmates, Jesslyn Antonio, Mike Adhitya Williams, Sneha Lakshmikanth and Jahnavi Bharadwaj to help him with his Twitter analysis, giving him valuable experience leading a team.
“I’m really enjoying the project; I’ve learned so much already and we’re really starting to get some interesting insights that can be used to inform people about how things will progress in the coming months” said Bharadwaj.