Health Life

Researchers driving around Seattle to track COVID-19 response over time

UW researchers developed a project that scans the streets every few weeks to document how Seattle has reacted to the pandemic and what recovery looks like. The team is developing algorithms to help identify things such as cars, people and whether they are physically distancing in each frame. Credit: University of Washington

As the city of Seattle shut down in March 2020 to try to slow the spread of COVID-19, a group of University of Washington researchers got to work.

The team developed a that scans the streets every few weeks to document what’s happening around the —answering questions such as: Are people outside? Are restaurants open? This project, which began in May and will continue until at least fall of 2021, collects images of how Seattle has reacted to the pandemic and what recovery looks like. This creates a massive dataset that documents what was happening at any particular point in time. The researchers hope the data will help answer questions about what makes a city resilient and how to better prepare for potential future pandemics and other disasters.

The team will present this project Oct. 1 at the Environmental and Occupational Health webinar through the UW School of Public Health.

“We talk about resilience a lot in disaster sciences. There are lots of theories about what makes a community resilient to natural hazards, but we don’t fully understand resilience to pandemics, partially because we just haven’t been through these events at this scale,” said co-lead researcher Nicole Errett, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health sciences. “This project provided us with an opportunity to see what’s important for resilience in this context. What are people doing? Where are they recreating? Are they following distancing and mask-wearing recommendations? And how do their activities change as the