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Mapping the Coronavirus

Story by
Kim Eckart/UW News

As scientists pin down the origin of the coronavirus and governments enact prevention measures and labs look for a cure, news about the outbreak often comes down to two questions: Where and how many people are infected?

An interactive map from University of Washington geographer Bo Zhao aims to answer those questions in real time.

Zhao produced this interactive map of the coronavirus, which updates every few hours with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization (WHO), the People’s Republic of China, and other government agencies, including those in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. By zooming in on various countries, users can see the numbers of cases, recoveries, and deaths, as well as trends over time.

Bo Zhao portrait with trees behind

"Mapping is a powerful tool to tell stories of social, cultural, and political phenomena,” says Bo Zhao.

“Mapping is a powerful tool to tell stories of social, cultural, and political phenomena,” says Zhao, an assistant professor of geography who specializes in the social implications of maps and using innovative methods in mapping. “As a geographer, and in what people call the ‘post-truth era,’ it’s important to weigh in with data sources to show people how things are happening.”

The outbreak of the coronavirus has been declared a public health emergency by the WHO. More than 114,000 people have been infected worldwide, and more than 4,000 have died.*   

Zhao recently produced an online atlas to illustrate the global refugee experience. The coronavirus, he said, is another societal issue that people can gain perspective on by seeing it on a map.

While the Chinese government has been criticized for its response to the crisis, and concerns have arisen about its transparency, Zhao said China’s National Health Commission data is the most accurate available for the country. 

The outbreak is now a global issue, and that’s the perspective users can gain from the map, says Zhao, who recently switched his focus from the outbreak in China to the US. The numbers on display are important, too, he says, because there are more recoveries than deaths. 

“That can give people encouragement,” he says.

As more detailed data have become available, Zhao has added state and provincial totals from the United States and Canada, respectively.

* This article was originally published in UW News on February 7, 2020, and updated March 9, 2020.

Mobile device users may have a better experience exploring the map here

By clicking on any place on the Novel Coronavirus Infection Map, you can learn about the reach of the virus. You can also find the map here