Retrospective emerging hot-spot analysis of COVID-19 Cases in Ontario urban areas: Applying a geospatial approach for pandemic readiness

Matthew Adams, University of Toronto Mississauga; Laura Rosella, Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Computerized mapping played an essential role in managing the COVID-19 pandemic, with a far greater influence than ever due to the increased accessibility of tools and data. Many approaches were borrowed from other fields of science as they showed promise to support public health needs. In this project, we will review the existing peer-reviewed and grey literature to identify how mapping tools were applied to identify pandemic hotspots. In addition, we will evaluate the potential statistical techniques to determine if they can be used to identify emerging pandemic hotspots throughout each wave of the first four waves of COVID-19 in Ontario. Finally, the hotspots will be evaluated against sociodemographic data to mine for features that could be used to understand a hotspot’s long-term stability better. The project includes three trainees: one undergraduate, one MSc student and a Ph.D. student.

Research outputs will include a scoping review of geospatial hotspot analysis tools applied during the COVID-19 pandemic. A scientific paper including the statistical analysis of each potential tool and its application to COVID-19 case data in Ontario for the identification of emerging hotspots.

Future research will include developing geographic information systems tools that public health teams can apply during future pandemics based on the findings and further evaluation as to how the geopolitical boundaries applied for the aggregation of case data may skew hotspot identification during the pandemic.