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Zeno Franco, Chris Davis, Adina Kalet, Michelle Horng, Johnathan Horng, Christian Hernandez, et al. (2021). Augmenting Google Sheets to Improvise Community COVID-19 Mask Distribution. In Anouck Adrot, Rob Grace, Kathleen Moore, & Christopher W. Zobel (Eds.), ISCRAM 2021 Conference Proceedings – 18th International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (pp. 359–375). Blacksburg, VA (USA): Virginia Tech.
Abstract: Face mask scarcity in the United States hindered early infection control efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Areas with a history of racial segregation and poverty experienced differential COVID-19 death and morbidity rates. Supplying masks equitably and rapidly became an urgent public health priority. A partnership between a local manufacturer with available polypropylene fabric and the Medical College of Wisconsin, which had the capability to assemble and distribute masks, was formed in April, 2020. An improvised logistics framework allowed for rapid distribution more than 250,000 masks, and later facilitated hand-off to other organizations to distribute over 3 million masks. Using an action research framework three phases of the effort are considered, 1) initial deliveries to community clinics, 2) equitable distribution to community agencies while under “safer at home” orders, and 3) depot deliveries and transfer of logistics management as larger agencies recovered. A multi-actor view was used to interrogate the information needs of faculty and staff remotely directing distribution, medical student volunteers delivering masks, and the manufacturer monitorng overall inventory. Logistics information was managed using Google Sheets augmented with a small SQLite component. A phenomenological view, toggling back and forth from the “socio” to the “technical” provides detailed insight into the strengths and limitations of digital solutions for humanitarian logistics, highlighting where paper-based processes remain more efficient. This case study suggests that rather than building bespoke logistics software, supporting relief efforts with non-traditional responders may benefit from extensible components that augment widely used digital tools.