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Domo analytics tool helps Utah deal with COVID-19 crisis

The state of Utah, along with Iowa and Nebraska, is using the COVID-19 Crisis Command Center developed by Domo to inform its decisions during the coronavirus pandemic.

As the state of Utah attempts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and make key decisions about stay-at-home guidelines and economic recovery, Domo is a key asset.

In early March, the pandemic had barely affected the U.S. Just 42 positive cases had been reported nationwide as of March 1, and only four deaths. But by the end of the month, the scenario had changed. The number of positive cases was up to 185,991 by March 31, and the death total was up to 3,809.

States, meanwhile, were issuing stay-at-home orders, the first of which was California on March 19.

As March wore on, the state of Utah had access data in order to help inform its decisions, but it wasn't enough. State government officials wanted data from more sources. They wanted the state's data all in one place. And they wanted the data to be as close to real time as possible.

"The issue was that we didn't have real-time data and there was far too much reliance on models and forecasts," said Kristen Cox, executive director of the Utah Governor's Office of Management and Budget. "I think the whole deal with the virus is learning to manage risk, and if you don't know what is actually happening right now -- today -- so you can be nimble and move stuff around."

"It's very difficult to manage risk, and so one of the first things we had to do was get the right data in place," she said.

Utah turned to one of its own to get the right data in place -- Domo, an analytics vendor founded in 2010 and based in American Fork, Utah, only 30 miles from the state capitol building.

Utah approached Domo on the afternoon of March 27, a Friday. By March 31 -- the following Tuesday -- Domo had developed the COVID-19 Crisis Command Center, a hub for critical data. Since then, Utah has been using the Crisis Command Center as a key resource as it makes policy decisions related to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, both Iowa and Nebraska have also adopted Domo's Crisis Command Center to help inform their policy decisions related to COVID-19.

Positive testing data is displayed on a sample dashboard from Domo's COVID-19 Crisis Command Center.
A sample dashboard from Domo's COVID-19 Crisis Command Center displays data about new positive tests.

The Crisis Command Center

When COVID-19 began to spread throughout the country and governors issued stay-at-home orders, few states were prepared. Most restaurants and bars -- as well as barber shops and hair salons, gyms, retail stores and a host of other businesses reliant on foot traffic -- never imagined they'd have to close their doors. Most corporations never imagined they'd have to shut their offices and employees would work exclusively from home.

And state governments never imagined they'd have to shutter significant parts of their economies, order their residents to stay at home except for the most essential reasons and mandate that when they did venture out they'd need to stay six feet apart.

But that's what happened.

Analytics, meanwhile, has become a crucial tool for any business or government organization as it attempts to make decisions, lessen the damage from the economic slowdown that's resulted from COVID-19 and looks ahead toward how and when to potentially reopen.

During most of March, the Utah state government was monitoring the number of positive cases in order to make decisions. That was the primary data it had at hand. But as the scope of the pandemic became more clear, that data wasn't enough, particularly given that the rate of testing has not been able to keep up with the demand and it's unknown how many additional people may have contracted COVID-19 but aren't included in the number of positive cases.

"It was pretty traditional public health information, which is nice, important, but it wasn't sufficient to know how to manage the risk," Cox said.

Needing more, with the health of both its citizens and economy at stake, Utah looked to Domo. Domo quickly delivered the COVID-19 Crisis Command Center in response.

Through the hub, Domo is delivering data that includes testing capacity and processing times, the number of infections, hot spots, rates of transmission, hospital bed utilization and personal protective equipment (PPE) inventory. It's pulling the data from multiple sources, and quickly joining it together and delivering it for analysis in a single location.

"The states are looking for immediate insights that they can then take and leverage into ... action that will help save lives and get the economy back up and running in each of these states," said Mark Maughan, Domo's vice president of business operations and analytics and part of the team that developed the command center system. "The Crisis Command Center is a solution that's allowing them to aggregate and collaborate as a group to help make that happen."

Some of the data -- hospital bed utilization, for example -- is collected through daily survey research and updated each day. Other data, however, including the number of positive tests, is updated as often as every 15 minutes.

Utah, meanwhile, is paying Domo $2 million -- $1.5 million for licensing and $500,000 for services -- over 12 months to use the Crisis Command Center with an option to opt out after six months.

"What we're facing right now, no one certainly expected it," said John Mellor, Domo's chief strategy officer. "If you'd asked anyone three or four months ago, no one in their wildest nightmares thought that we would be in the situation we're in now, but looking on the bright side, from a functionality and a product and business strategy standpoint, these are kind of the situations that Domo was built for."

In particular, Mellor said, the Augmented intelligence and machine learning capabilities of Domo's platform give it the ability to aggregate the most relevant data, model it, and present it so that decision-makers can digest and make policy based on the data.

Insight and action

With the COVID-19 command center from Domo as a tool, the state of Utah has been able to get the critical information needed to make data-driven policy decisions with respect to the health of its citizens and local economy.

The state's decision-making team, meanwhile, is a consortium that includes a data and analytics support unit led by Cox along with representatives from the Utah Department of Health, Utah Economic Response Task Force and area healthcare providers that develops recommendations for Governor Gary Herbert.

Utah, unlike most states, never issued a statewide stay-at-home order. Instead, on March 26, Herbert issued the "Stay Safe, Stay Home" directive, a version of a stay-at-home order that was more a request rather than a mandate. Certain counties, however, took the more aggressive step of a stay-at-home order, including Salt Lake County and Davis County, where a combined 1.5 million of Utah's 3.2 million people live.

In addition, on March 24, Governor Herbert revealed the Utah Leads Together Plan, which articulates the state's strategy for what it terms a health and economic recovery. It laid out a plan to restore the economy in three phases -- urgent, stabilization and recovery -- along with statistical benchmarks that needed to be met in order to move from one phase to the next and an estimated timeline.

The administration put that plan together before the state approached Domo and began using the more advanced data available in the vendor's command center. While the plan was based on data and included predictive planning, team members didn't develop it using the level of information it would have just days later.

"The systems in the states are like your typical enterprise systems -- a lot of them are very old," Mellor said. "At the beginning, they were trying to manage their PPE orders on Google Sheets, and nothing is wrong with a Google sheet, but it's not the most data-friendly environment to manage real-time inputs and outputs of data and present that information to a business user so a decision can be made."

A bit more than three weeks later, on April 17, with better data at hand, the state released the Utah Leads Together Plan 2.0, an updated version of the original plan that included a more detailed response to the pandemic and a color-coded health guidance system -- red, orange, yellow, green -- to reflect the level of risk at a given time.

One of the key statistical measures the consortium felt needed to be met in order for Utah to move out of the urgent stage toward stabilization, and out of the red level of risk to orange, was a 1-to-1 transmission rate -- a single person infecting an average of only one other person.

The federal government, meanwhile, recommends no state begin to open until there has been a decline in new COVID-19 cases for 14 days, a milestone no state has yet reached. Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation's top public health institute, are even more stringent.

"The question is how long do you stay in the urgent phase and why," Cox said. "What information tells you that you can actually start opening the economy? We had to get some objective measures in place where everyone could agree that ... if we could achieve these, we can go into the stabilization phase."

And state officials deemed that the 1-to1 transmission rate as evidence that the spread of COVID-19 was under enough control to move forward with the state's plan to reopen the economy.

"If we get the transmission rate to one, it helps to understand that -- you never have it totally under control -- we're managing risk in a way that's much better," Cox said. "That became the first goal."

In mid-March, according to the Utah Leads Together Plan 2.0, the transmission rate was 2.5-to-1. By mid-April, data showed that the transmission rate had fallen 1-to-1.

Based on that information -- along with other key data Domo tracked, such as the number of hospitalizations -- Utah decided on April 28 to begin the process of opening up its economy and is now one of 25 states to have done so.

[The Crisis Command Center] is the backbone for the data we'll use to help make informed decisions. Without some objectivity on this, it becomes impossible to know if you should move forward or backward.
Kristen CoxExecutive director of the Utah Governor's Office of Management and Budget

"[The Crisis Command Center] is the backbone for the data we'll use to help make informed decisions," Cox said. "Without some objectivity on this, it becomes impossible to know if you should move forward or backward."

When the risk level stood at red -- high risk -- among other preventative measures, dine-in services at restaurants were prohibited, gyms and fitness centers were closed, and strict restrictions were in place for the hotel and tourism industry.

With Utah's risk level moved to orange -- moderate risk -- as of May 1, many of the same restrictions remain in place, while others have been eased only slightly. Perhaps the most noticeable change is that restaurants are now allowed to provide dine-in service with strict physical distancing guidelines -- the same guidelines apply to gyms and fitness centers -- and some of the restrictions on hotels and tourism have been eased.


With Utah's transmission rate at or below 1-to-1, the risk level reduced from red to orange, and many industries back in business -- albeit under strict limitations -- the state is ahead of schedule.

When Utah put together the reopening plan in late March, the state's goal was to lower the transmission rate below 1-to-1 in 8 to 12 weeks. Instead, with stay-at-home recommendations and other social distancing measures in place, it took far less time.

But whatever success Utah has had so far does not mean the state will plow ahead to yellow and green if the data collected in Domo's COVID-19 Crisis Command Center doesn't support easing restrictions.

"We're being responsible about this in orange, and if we see the numbers stay strong in orange for a few weeks, we can go to yellow and to green, and in each phase there are measures and triggers and guidelines for businesses about what to do," Cox said.

She added that the state is providing a mobile app that lets businesses know what's allowed and what isn't during each phase of the economic recovery process.

Meanwhile, if, as many have predicted, there's a second worldwide wave of COVID-19 cases or Utah on its own sees a spike in the number of positive tests following the move to ease restrictions, Cox said the state is prepared to go back to red.

She added, however, that with the more advanced data Utah is getting from Domo, the state wouldn't necessarily have to return all of Utah to red.

"The beauty of the data now is that we can dissect it by county," Cox said. "Instead of having one-size-fits-all, we can be more surgical in the approach. ... Now we have the ability to go to hot spots, do mobile testing all around that site and catch people."

Meanwhile, Domo built the Crisis Command Center as a tool intended to have a lasting impact, according to the vendor. While developed in response to Utah's urgent need and subsequently adopted by other states, businesses are also taking advantage of its capabilities as they attempt to return to normal operations.

"As you look on the horizon you think about where the decision-support and system-leverage need to happen, it will likely stay with the state city governments for a while, but it's quickly moving over into corporations that are looking to bring their employees back into a seminormal or new normal work environment," Maughan said.

Those companies are going to need the same kind of information about testing and transmission levels as the states in order to make educated decisions about whether to bring employees together in one place, or customers through their doors.

They, like Utah, need to know and manage the risk associated with COVID-19.

"You get a lot of the type of work that we've done with the states and you apply it to a work environment," Maughan said. "You become the backbone system that an enterprise uses to create a safe work environment and help employees with their own wellness and safety and encourage an environment that can operate."

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