A new COVID-19 tracking tool released Friday is designed to provide Texans with an up-to-the-minute picture of how the pandemic is affecting the state’s residents each day.

The COVID-19 dashboard from Texas 2036, a data and policy nonprofit, takes health and economic data and condenses it into interactive graphs. Users can see figures related to such as topics as unemployment claims, coronavirus tests conducted, and the positive test rate, which was 5.94 percent as of May 7, according to the tool. 

The Texas 2036 tracking tool also comes with a “reopening analysis,” which applies Texas coronavirus data to White House-provided criteria on when states should reopen their economies.

Texas 2036 will compile data each day from sources such as the Texas Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, according to a Friday news release. More data sets will be added in the future.

Texas 2036’s data team worked with the Texas Department of State Health Services to create its COVID-19 dashboard, and consulted with experts from the University of Texas at Austin’s medical school on what information was most important to show the public.

“Transparent, accessible tools like this dashboard will help guide understanding and action on the difficult choices and opportunities facing Texans as we fight this unpredictable, deadly virus,” Texas 2036 Founder Tom Luce said in a prepared statement Friday.

Luce, who was appointed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s “strike force” focused on reopening the state’s economy, said it’s important for people to not get too fixated on day-to-day coronavirus case numbers.

“I think we all understand that on some level, it’s not one day that matters, it’s trends that matter,” he said. 

John Hryhorchuk, Texas 2036’s policy director, agreed, pointing to the difference between daily reported numbers and the actual trend. Reported COVID-19 cases each day result in spikes, while trend analysis follows a steadier path upward or downward.

“There’s a quip in the medical community that it seems the disease takes weekends off,” Hryhorchuk said. “It’s important that we know real trends and directions and aren’t distracted by short blips in data that might more reflect statistical anomalies than actual changes on the ground.”

Hryhorchuk added that economic trends were important to follow as well. The Texas 2036 economic trend data comes from the Texas Workforce Commission as well as some private-sector sources, he said. The dashboard has graphs dedicated to the estimated change in how many businesses are open each day, as well as the number of hourly employees working in the state. Those graphs showed a large dropoff in March, but the numbers are moving slowly back up, Hryhorchuk said.

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“We’re working on building out the economic analysis because it’s such an important part of the story,” he said.

Texas 2036 also compiled the number of beds and ventilators available in the state. Though users can browse data by county, Hryhorchuk cautioned that not all counties have the same number of data points.

“We all know and understand one data point can never be the decision-maker,” Luce said. “That’s why we’ve looked at a series of data points for people to make informed decisions.”

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is a general assignment reporter at the Rivard Report.