Okanagan College Student Sean Heddle is working on a live GIS map tracking the spread of the COVID-19 virus through B.C. (Sean Heddle Image)

Okanagan College student designs map tracking spread of COVID-19 in B.C.

Sean Heddle says fighting complacency and misinformation is important

An Okanagan College student at the school’s Salmon Arm campus is using Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping to track the spread of COVID-19 virus through B.C.

Sean Heddle said he hoped to be able to share a live and regularly updated map tracking the number of cases in the province’s health authorities once the version of it he is building as part of his coursework at the college is complete.

Heddle was already sharing GIS Map images with up-to-date data on them to a Facebook group he created called British Columbia COVID-19 Tracker & Info. He planned to host the finished live map on the page when it is completed.

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Heddle’s information was from the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC). He hoped putting reliable data in map form would drive people to take the spread of the virus, and the BCCDC guidelines designed to slow its spread, seriously.

Heddle, who operates a graphic design and media company called 5ive by 5ive, made an earlier map for another school project that tracked the virus’ spread throughout China and into other countries during the early days of the outbreak. One of Heddle’s observations as he watched the virus leave China’s borders, was that complacency, both on the part of governments and individuals, was a major factor in the spread. He said he saw some of that complacency in Salmon Arm, but the situation in the United States was far more concerning.

Heddle said that as he watched the early spread of the virus he thought the it would have heavily impact countries with inadequate public health infrastructure, but he never predicted the U.S. would lead the world in COVID-19 cases.

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That complacency, and in some cases denial that the virus was a concern, frustrated Heddle, but he thinks they can be fought by sharing accurate information. Heddle said he chose the colour-coding system of his map to convey the grim urgency of the outbreak. Health authorities with the most cases were shaded in a deep red.

“It sends the message that it’s critical that something be done…,” he said.



jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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