Researchers from LabCity, from the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo (FAU-USP), created a interactive map to follow cases of covid-19 by clipping streets, towns or communities in the capital and neighboring cities in Greater São Paulo. Through it it is possible to observe the number of cases and deaths. According to scientists, the tool already makes it possible to reach the following conclusion: the simple comparison between favelas and central neighborhoods does not serve to explain the behavior of the coronavirus or to guide strategies to fight the disease.
To prepare the detailed map, the group crossed data on hospital admissions for coronavirus and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SRAG) with the patient’s zip code. When analyzing the distribution of cases from smaller scales, the scientists noted, however, that the presence of the coronavirus can be heterogeneous between locations with similar characteristics or even within the same neighborhood.
“‘Where there is a favela, there is a covid’ is a justification that does not fit. There are favelas with many cases, yes, but there are other favela spots without high concentration of the disease. The same happens with noble neighborhoods”, says researcher Aluízio Marino, from LabCidade. “This dual, easy relationship between the center and the periphery is actually not correct.”
The concentration of covid-19 is represented on the map by small islands of heat that turn into lines as the cutout gets closer to neighborhoods. In general, the spots appear scattered practically all over the city, except in the most extreme region of the south zone, one of the poorest in São Paulo, where there are more occurrences of underreporting than confirmed cases, by the tool.
According to Marino, the advantage of georeferencing is that it allows a “more complex reading” of the pandemic, thus making it possible to develop specific actions for each place. Otherwise, the strategy to fight the disease risks failing, says the researcher.
“It was what happened with the extended holiday or the mega rotation of vehicles”, he evaluates. “The city of São Paulo has a very different characteristic, there are several cities within one, so there must be territorialized strategies.”
The researcher also uses the example of Brasilândia, a periphery in the northern zone. “The City Hall’s epidemiological bulletins organize information by administrative district. Often, this section considers territories too large,” he says. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, the neighborhood is considered to be of high concentration, but there the population is equivalent to that of a medium-sized city. Without the street scale, it doesn’t say much.”
However, scientists from LabCidade warn that the tool does not offer the complete scenario of the pandemic in São Paulo and also does not explain what factors influence the spread of the disease, for now. “These data are not all, they are hospitalization data. Those who were treated at home or even asymptomatic patients will not appear on the map”, says Marino.
In the next stage of the project, the group intends to test hypotheses and investigate the set of elements that leads a given location to have more or less cases of covid-19 – such as the circulation of buses or the presence of health equipment and shopping centers. “We verified the presence in different territories, now we are going to cross with other elements, not only the population density or precariousness of the territory.”
The researchers, however, fear for the future of the project. In a note released on Tuesday, 9, LabCidade reported that the Ministry of Health’s Datasus portal failed to disclose the variable “CEP” and even removed information from previous spreadsheets in the open database. Without it, it is not possible to update the mapping.
“This change is connected to a broader strategy to decrease the transparency of data on covid-19 in Brazil”, says the group’s statement. “All of these changes point, on the one hand, to the attempt to hide information and make it difficult for activists, managers and researchers to monitor it, on the other hand, a strategy to confuse the population and minimize the severity of the pandemic.”
Asked, the Ministry of Health has not yet responded.