The global impact of the novel coronavirus has been severe. But revealing what will happen next, how we can respond in advance, and what will be our new norm has put one resource at the core of these ambitions – data.

The COVID Alliance formed to help local and state governments, public health systems, and healthcare organizations in the U.S. leverage data to help stop the spread of the virus and steadily return to normalcy. The Alliance is already in talks with officials in Texas and California. It is represented by skilled epidemiologists, policy experts, data scientists, and software engineers. Snowflake is proud to join the Alliance and to assist with its important mission.

The Alliance has created a pandemic management tool that will help local areas obtain clearer insights from health data and on population movements, so decision makers can determine where and when to ramp up or relax social distancing policies. This tool will also help determine if additional healthcare resources, such as mobile ICU and hospital units, are needed based on population patterns and the perceived spread of infection. These insights will improve as more data is introduced across the country. 

Specifically, the pandemic management tool shows how population densities are changing over time and whether social distancing is working in relation to the specific measures in place in a local area. The tool pulls data from a number of live data sets, including the Starschema COVID-19 data set, which is available free of charge on the Snowflake Data Marketplace. The tool allows governments to contextualize data needed to make decisions related to the complex problems associated with the pandemic.

Figure 1: An example of the Risk Analytics dashboard from the COVID Alliance.
Figure 2: An example of the Social Distancing Dashboard from the COVID Alliance.

“We are building a holistic, integrated solution that draws on the resources, expertise, and connections of our Alliance to more fully benefit from each other’s strengths,” the COVID Alliance’s head of policy and research, Karishma Patel said. “Individuals will have the information they need to protect themselves and know what they’re advised to do. Governments will have the information they need to consider more policy options beyond just saying ‘okay, we need to hide until this is over’.”

A member of the COVID Alliance has recently released a contact tracing mobile app, which is HIPAA-compliant and uses a Bluetooth tracing protocol similar to Singapore’s Bluetrace protocol (but with enhanced security and privacy protection). It was designed in discussion with Apple and Google to be forward compatible with the Bluetooth tracing protocols they are developing.

The Near Future

Future offerings from the Alliance include a remote symptom monitoring tool, which will allow healthcare systems to connect with COVID-19 patients and those presumed to be infected. Healthcare professionals will be able to monitor, triage, and manage potential infections. The app will also connect them with symptomatic individuals so they can provide education and awareness about COVID-19 and avoid overburdening hospitals, while also potentially providing services such as food delivery. The Alliance’s safe restart tool will soon identify which distancing policies governments can gradually relax, and where, and help them understand the health, economic, and social tradeoffs of different policy decisions.

Data Privacy

The Alliance takes a strong stance on data governance and data privacy to enable these tools, and their features, without misusing personal data. For this reason, it has assembled a third-party ethics advisory board of leading academics and policy experts to conduct a thorough review of the Alliance’s initiatives around data accuracy, consent, anonymity, governance, and transience. It is also in the process of devising an appropriate ‘purge clause’ into its nonprofit governance that will force the deletion of all personally identifiable information at a specific, mathematically verifiable point in the future.

Data Security

All of the data powering the Alliance’s tools resides in Snowflake Cloud Data Platform, which provides end-to-end data encryption and a multitude of other security features. Snowflake also meets a number of industry and regional data compliance standards, including NIST 800-53 requirements, SOC 2 Type 2, PCI DSS attestation, and support for HIPAA compliance. Snowflake also deploys periodic security testing, also known as penetration testing, by independent security firms to proactively check for any vulnerabilities. Most importantly, Snowflake does not have access to the data that organizations, such as the Covid Alliance, store on its platform.

Solution Accessibility

The Covid Alliance will continue to consume other data sets from the Snowflake Data Marketplace, and will also provide data sets with the hope of empowering other Covid-19 solutions. The Snowflake Data Marketplace is a secure and governed way for organizations to share data and data analytics services. A number of the independent data sources that power the Alliance’s tools are also listed on Snowflake Data Marketplace, including the Starschema COVID-19 data set, which more than 1,500 organizations are accessing in real time. This makes accessing and incorporating data so much faster and easier when it resides in a single location, which is crucial to empowering decision makers to act in an informed manner. 

Going Forward

Tackling COVID-19 and safely restoring human activity to a semblance of normalcy are among the immediate goals of the COVID Alliance. But just as the preceding decade has shown, this is not the first virus, nor the last, that has the potential to become a global pandemic. The Alliance will share these tools and frameworks to ensure governments, health authorities, and individuals can continue to take the appropriate actions, in advance, to help prevent the spread of the next deadly virus. We at Snowflake are very excited to partner with the Alliance on this important mission going forward.