Pacific Northwest leaders who are wielding tech for good causes are doing great things — and Geekwire annually celebrates those efforts.
When COVID-19 vaccines began widely rolling out in early 2021, it unleashed an anxious scramble to find available doses. Getting vaccinated was a chance to put at-risk family members out of harm’s way. It opened the door to reunions with loved ones after months of separation. But despite the high stakes, there was no single place to figure out who had shots available, and when.
So a team of volunteer tech experts in Washington stepped in to quickly fill the void.
The group formed in early February and within five days launched CovidWA.com to help people find shots across King County, which includes Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond. Less than two weeks later, the site covered the whole state.
“We all have been admiring the workers that have been able to make a difference on the front lines,” said Maureen O’Hara, a project manager for CovidWA.com at the time of its launch. “I can’t cure COVID, but I can help people get the information they need to protect themselves.”
The platform scraped appointment availability information from websites for 1,400 vaccine providers, providing updates on openings every five minutes.
The team shut down the site at the end of May as vaccine scarcity diminished and the state Department of Health improved its site. CovidWA.com was used by more than 1.1 million Washington residents, and the initiative provided data to DOH that served an additional 2 million users.
The core leaders were former Microsoft engineer George Hu, MIT software engineering student Darren Lim, Facebook engineer Dmitry Grigorenko, Microsoft engineer Olga Illarionova, and Microsoft software engineer Dan Morris. (Grigorenko and Illarionova are also a married couple.) The effort drew 130 volunteers.