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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Beyond the COVID-19 dashboard: UC Davis provides exposure, filtration, ventilation datasets

The UC Davis DataLab and Facilities provide tools to examine UC Davis public information

By KATHLEEN QUINN— campus@theaggie.org

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the UC Davis COVID-19 dashboard has been a source for up-to-date information about testing, cases and isolation. Although, additional regularly-updated datasets provide a more complex view of the effects of the pandemic on campus.

Ventilation and filtration data

UC Davis maintains a live Airtable dataset that can be downloaded and shows the current ventilation and filtration system on campus. 

Josh Morejohn, the energy manager for UC Davis, works with a team of engineers and data scientists to maintain this Airtable dataset

“It was a matter of putting the information in a place where people could access it,” Morejohn said. “A lot of our students worked on that database because it was a matter of pulling different information from different sources and putting it into one place in an organized way.”

Though UC Davis facilities have maintained ventilation and filtration systems for their own use, information about these systems was made public soon after the start of the pandemic. 

“As soon as the pandemic hit, that was one of the campus’s main requests,” Morejohn said. “Our Vice Chancellor Kelly Ratliff was very interested in trying to give people information because they wanted to know what kind of systems served their buildings.”

This data was aggregated by UC Davis Facilities and visualized by Kathleen Quinn of The California Aggie. This visualization only shows known filtration; unknown filtration has been excluded.

According to the Airtable data, UC Davis has only one building whose heating, ventilation and air conditioning system has a high-efficiency particulate air or “HEPA” filter; however, the university has also installed over 50 portable HEPA filters which are noted on the dataset as “air purifiers.”

Ventilation systems can either have recirculated air, use 100% outside air or a mixture of the two. Outside air helps to avoid the spread of airborne contaminants, including viruses, indoors according to the EPA. According to Morejohn, the portable filters served as an extra precaution in rooms without 100% outside air.

This data was aggregated by UC Davis Facilities and visualized by Kathleen Quinn of The California Aggie. This visualization only shows known ventilation; unknown ventilation has been excluded.

At the top of the list for exposure are general assignment classrooms: classrooms that are used for multiple disciplines and may change from quarter to quarter. Consequently, Morejohn said that these classrooms were the focus of data collection.

This data was aggregated by the UC Davis DataLab and visualized by Kathleen Quinn of The California Aggie. Worksites with no exposure up to March 2 are not included.

Wellman Hall, which tops the charts in exposure for the campus at 46 incidents of reported exposure since Jan. 1, 2021, has a MERV rating of 13 or better, a high rating for air filters, and is ventilated with 100% outside air, which is preferred.

Though this filter cannot catch particles as small as COVID-19, it does capture larger particles that the virus might attach to such as pollen or dust, according to the EPA

Dining halls are also one of the most exposed areas on campus. 

“This last quarter, with the omicron variant, we prioritized the dining commons because that’s where people were not masked when they’re eating and that was a concern,” Morejohn said.

As the pandemic evolves, the focus on the filtration system may change, as it can be used in multiple ways, according to Morejohn.

“It’s not only good for COVID virus mitigation, but it’s also good for smoke mitigation,” Morejohn said.

COVID-19 exposure data

As of Jan. 1, 2021, with the passage of AB-685’s COVID-19 imminent hazard provision, the state of California has mandated that all private and public employers inform employees of known workplace exposures. This information is provided daily in an email and includes the location and estimated dates of exposure. 

COVID-19 exposure data for the UC Davis campus is publicly available through the UC Davis website, but the information is deleted every 14 days.

Michele Tobias, a geospatial data specialist at UC Davis, worked with students and researchers at the UC Davis DataLab on a case study using COVID-19 exposure data to create an interactive data visualization that shows the buildings on campus affected over time.

“It was really a good tool to help us better visualize the data and understand what patterns that may or may not be going on, in what was originally a tabular data set,” Tobias said.

The data used was aggregated by the UC Davis DataLab and visualized by Kathleen Quinn of The California Aggie.

According to the data, the largest peak in UC Davis exposure sites was on Nov. 30, 2021 with 38 exposures. Each building with a known exposure may report separately, so this number does not necessarily reflect 38 separate individuals but instead multiple people who migrated from building to building.

In Tobias’ view, a map is an easy way to understand where exposures to COVID-19 are occurring. 

“We felt it was better to represent the data as similar to how it was originally presented without doing a lot of interpretation or analysis on it,” Tobias said. “The goal of the map itself was to present the tabular data in visual form.”

Since the data provided is stored openly in GitHub, it provides an opportunity for the public to use the data in different ways.

“This particular interactive map we made was built on curiosity: what if I built this differently? What do I learn from it?” Tobias said. “Those are the kinds of things [that] if you have open data then the community can also explore it, and maybe we can come up with something useful.”

Tobias said part of her job is to teach people different tools and data visualizations on many different topics using open datasets. 

“Making it all open so people can see how we did it and maybe adapt it — is part of what we do, part of our philosophy at DataLab,” Tobias said. 

Written by: Kathleen Quinn — campus@theaggie.org

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