Los Angeles City Confronting COVID-19

'As technologies such as AI and machine learning continue to make an impact on the healthcare space, startups will play an increasing role in such transformation.'

AI LA is proud to welcome Amanda Daflos, City of LA’s Chief Innovation Officer to speak at this year’s Life Summit.

She kicked off the program by sharing her high-level perspective on how the city manages its response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Amanda begins by introducing the city’s approach to its COVID response, namely that an overarching principle guiding their daily decisions is to have an agile mindset. She says, “COVID is changing us, but we are responsible for being agile in the way we respond to COVID.”

Ms. Daflos, like many of the other speakers of this year’s Life Summit, remarks that the coronavirus responsible for 2020’s pandemic is in effect the most important “C-suite” member of organizations across the spectrum: commerce, government, public health, research; driving the response of each organization to the rapidly changing conditions of the outbreak.

Since March of 2020, the city of LA’s pandemic response has focused on data. The number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have been key driving forces in Mayor Garcetti’s decision-making. The more that city employees and officials know about the virus, the better they can respond and understand how the disease impacts the city.

Despite a population of 4 million, Los Angeles does not have its own municipal public health department. The city, therefore, partnered with the county’s public health department during the pandemic for support. This collaboration was crucial to the mayor’s ability to lead with data.

Early in the pandemic, March 20, 2020, the city launched its testing infrastructure. Testing rates started at 60 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests per day. The need for vastly greater and more accessible testing drove the innovation that increased up to 10-20k tests per day by October 2020. Testing was crucial to understanding where the city stood or who needed to quarantine or be hospitalized and strategically target limited resources. Seeing which areas were more affected allowed testing to increase in those areas. In addition, mobile testing units were created to reach out to nursing homes and essential workers who otherwise may not have had access to testing in those early days. This rapid increase in testing and strategic targeting was available because of the city’s data-centered way of thinking.

Many people found themselves asking if things would ever go back to normal during the height of the pandemic. Ms. Daflos likens COVID to the most influential member of the C-suite with its potential to move work in many sectors to a virtual format. Some of the more positive outcomes of this influence have been in an increasingly contactless government, which now offers many services from home, such as the renewal of some permits and signing certain licenses. She’s optimistic that the city government will keep the improvements while bringing back services and programs that are better with contact.

Ms. Daflos ends her keynote by emphasizing the impact of individual behavior and the importance of personal responsibility. She urges viewers to listen to public health officials to drive data to a good place and listen to what the virus says. Ultimately, the data reflect the impact of the virus and the human response to it.

Note: In addition to her role as CIO, Ms. Daflos has also served LA’s Mayor Eric Garcetti as the Director of the Mayor’s Innovation Team since 2015. The Innovation Team (i-team) uses a data-driven approach, coupled with human-centered methods, to understand and improve how Angelenos interact with city services and programs. As a result, the i-team has ensured public access to reliable and multilingual information about the pandemic. Check out more of their work here.

About THE author

Carina Grunberg

Carina Grunberg is a data analyst with a background in engineering, optics, and biophysics research. She holds bachelor’s degrees from UC Berkeley in Physics and Biochemistry. After working as an engineer for many years, she transitioned to focusing on data science, AI, and ML with a particular passion for the healthcare space. She’s always looking for ways to apply her experience to her wide array of interests and curiosities. When not working, she’s either teaching yoga, exploring the outdoors, or leveling up her Khajit in Skyrim.

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