COVID-19 Mapping Projects

On April 17, the GIS/Mapping Working Group organized a brainstorming session to discuss maps that can be helpful in identifying and addressing urgent needs related to the COVID-19 crisis. Before the call, participants documented what maps already exist and proposed many possible mapping projects. During the call, we discussed which maps would be most useful for activists and advocates working on the ground to help those most vulnerable to the effects of the crisis. 

Four participants volunteered to lead four different map initiatives. We are currently looking for people who are interested in joining these teams to make these important maps a reality. No experience in mapping projects is necessary. We will need as much help as we can get to move the project along at every stage from research design, data management, data visualizations, and communications.

To join any of the projects, please fill out this form.

The four projects that will be developed are the following:


Housing Equity Project 

Project Lead: Krisstofer Marchena

This project will map where federal, state, and municipal budgetary and housing policies have affected New York State residents and the state’s housing and commercial stock. One ramification of these policies—including rezoning, lax construction oversight, defunding/privatization, and strengthening tenants’ rights—is the current organizing around a state-wide rent strike. The rent strike is being organized to meet the urgent needs of New Yorkers in this moment of crisis. It is also meant to realign the relationship between tenant to landlord, as well as landlord to bank.

Combining organizer’s experience, research tools, and GIS expertise we hope to craft a map capable of facilitating organizing for current campaigns for housing justice, as well as future generations of activists and residents.


COVID-19 and Cages

Project Lead: Celeste Winston

This project will map where US county, city, and state officials have passed emergency protections for incarcerated people during the COVID-19 crisis such as: releasing people from jails, prisons, and immigrant detention centers; reducing jail admissions; and eliminating medical co-pays. The project will categorize these emergency responses and contextualize them with information about incarceration rates and facilities across the United States. The mapping design process will seek input from abolitionist organizations, so that they can use the map as a critical tool for their current campaigns to protect incarcerated people from COVID-19.


COVID-19 and Climate change

Project Lead: Parisa Setayesh

Among the effects of Climate change, the exacerbation of heatwaves and other climate extremes are one of the most tangible. In recent years policymakers have established cooling centers and changed public interiors and exteriors in order to transform them into a temporary emergency refuge during these extreme heat events. However, in light of the covid-19 pandemic, the way public spaces are used has been transformed and the previous approaches to heatwave mitigation don’t seem feasible. 

The interaction of risks from climate extremes and covid-19 pandemic will also exacerbate the vulnerabilities in certain populations that due to their socio-economic or health status were affected more severely by one or both of these events. The longer-lasting economic backlashes from the pandemic is also likely to lower the abilities of these populations in mitigating the challenges of a heatwave. This mapping project will aim to combine microclimatic data and socio-economic data to map vulnerabilities to the heatwave extreme events in the New York area. This mapping project seeks to inform ways that we can act now to prepare for the coming summer months and build resiliences against occasions of extreme heat. 


COVID-19 and Food 

Project Lead: Lucienne Canet

At a time when Food Banks across the country are losing funds and many people are choosing whether to spend money on food or rent, farmers in the Midwest and across the country are dumping milk and eggs, potatoes and onions, and euthanizing hogs and chickens because they cannot be sold. At the same time, both supermarkets and food banks are having unexpected shortages of bread, milk, eggs, produce, chicken and other items. Though the government has ordered meat plants to stay open, there has been no coordinated effort to save this food through the creation of powdered milk, canned food and other items that will be necessary for people to survive the upcoming recession. This is both a human and an environmental fiasco.  

With this in mind, the food delivery chain is a network of 90 volunteers from across the country that have already volunteered to help drive a shipment of food from the Midwest to the East Coast. This project is focused on identifying areas of food shortage and food surplus using health and food desert data, identifying the most efficient routes, and coordinating timelines to avoid spoilage. The end goal is creating an alternative logistical plan for food transport. This mapping project will culminate in an actual shipment of produce to an under-resourced area.


To sign up to any of these group(s), fill out this form.


Image credit: Simon Cockell, 2009, Creative Commons License.