Reddit user shows the pandemic illustrated in 60 seconds

Data is Beautiful COVID-19 map
Data is Beautiful COVID-19 map(David West)
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 3:05 PM EDT
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(WILX) - One of the benefits to the internet is the ability for people to share their creativity with a wide audience at no cost. This has lead to people with niche interests gathering in large groups, and sometimes creating fascinating work. For example, Reddit has a community on it called “Data Is Beautiful,” which uses graphics to illustrate information in interesting ways.

Recently, one user in that community made a map that shows the movement of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic. It measures the 7-day average of new cases per 100K residents, with warmer colors representing more infections.

The infections can be seen starting in cities, then spreading across the country. Over the course of the pandemic, infections grow in the south, then shift to the north and back again, and show occasional flashes in places with major events, such as the Sturgis rally in August of 2020.

Users have been reacting to the novelty of seeing the whole pandemic summed up so quickly.

“I was living in the south eastern corner of Montana last year,” one user wrote. “Really crazy to see a visualization of just how isolated we were. I didn’t hear of a confirmed case until sometime in September.”

The user who made the infographic is David A. West from Tallahassee, FL. The information he used to color the map came from the US Census Bureau and the New York Times.

The embedded version is actually a follow up to his original post. West made the second version in tones that are easier for color blind people to distinguish.

“It didn’t take long at all. The geographic information is readily available, so I didn’t have to do much more than download it. The Census data is similarly accessible online,” West wrote. “The COVID data has been gathered by the New York Times throughout most of the pandemic and it is downloadable from GitHub. Johns Hopkins University also collects this information although it is structured differently.”

West also discussed why he chose to present the information as he did.

“Other researchers treat the period of February 2020 through February 2021 as a single wave. I disagree with that treatment,” West wrote. “Waves of the virus strike different places at different points in time. Aggregating them into a single plot for the entire US results in four distinct peaks in May 2020, August 2020, January 2021, a smaller peak in May 2021, and the current wave that peaked two weeks ago.

“The point of plotting all the states is not to show each state clearly - that’s practically impossible with 50 states. The point is to show that the peaks and valleys in different areas are not in sync and behaving as though the virus has been beaten back at the national (or even state level) is not a proper strategy because the virus may be surging in one’s local area even as it has been beaten back elsewhere.”

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