As Seen From Space

Tele-Epidemiological Data as Pandemic Memory

  • Louis Gleason Boston College
Keywords: Pandemics, Tele-Epidemiology, The Spanish Flu, COVID-19, Healthcare Studies


In the modern world, data is instrumental in historical storytelling. The magnitude of events, who they impacted, and the degree to which the events were managed are all, very often, told through the lens of data. The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of such data-driven history, where statistics on infections, death, vaccination, and average mobility are used to tell the story of how the pandemic unfolded in a given locale. While such statistical history is useful, it can also efface the histories of locations that lack access to the proper surveillance infrastructure, or are otherwise unable to deploy it. This produces an erasure of pandemic memory in healthcare-challenged areas, as deaths and infections go unrecorded and undocumented. This paper proposes the use of satellites to correct this, using Earth observation technologies to track viral vectors and find and document mass burial sites to produce a fuller picture of pandemic history, with an emphasis on filling the statistical gaps between the developed and developing world.