We’re Sharing Coronavirus Case Data for Every U.S. County

With no detailed government database on where the thousands of coronavirus cases have been reported, a team of New York Times journalists is attempting to track every case.

Download county-level data for coronavirus cases in the United States from 澳门葡京网址 on GitHub.

As the coronavirus has spread across the United States, killing hundreds of people and sickening tens of thousands more, comprehensive data on the extent of the outbreak has been difficult to come by.

No single agency has provided the public with an accurate, up-to-date record of coronavirus cases, tracked to the county level. To fill the gap, 澳门葡京网址 has launched a round-the-clock effort to tally every known coronavirus case in the United States. The data, which The Times will continue to track, is being made available to the public on Friday.

Individual states and counties have tracked their own cases and presented them to the public with varying degrees of speed and accuracy, but those tallies provide only limited snapshots of the nation’s outbreak. A publicly available tracker from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated five times a week, includes only state-level data. Other entities have made efforts, including a notable one by Johns Hopkins University, to track cases worldwide or within the United States.

In late January, not long after the first known case was reported in Washington State, The Times began tracking each known U.S. case as counties and states began reporting results of testing. Such testing, which had been delayed, gradually became more widely available. For the last eight weeks, a team of Times journalists has recorded an array of details — locations, dates, ages and conditions, when possible — about newly confirmed cases reported by state and local officials.

By Friday morning, The Times had tracked more than 85,000 cases in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories. There have been more known cases in the United States than in China, Italy or any other country, and more than 1,200 people have died in the United States. Researchers, scientists, government officials and business executives have requested access to the information. The Times is releasing its data publicly in an effort to broaden understanding of the virus’s toll.

“We hope the data set can help inform the ongoing public health response to the pandemic and ultimately, save lives,” said Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times. “We believe the data may help reveal how Covid-19 has spread through communities and clusters; which geographic areas may be hit the hardest; and how its spread in hard-hit areas may offer clues for regions that could face wider outbreaks in the future.”

The tracking has shown how quickly a single known case can mushroom into an uncontrolled outbreak, as has happened in Louisiana.

The database has shown how the detection of a small cluster in one area, like New Rochelle, N.Y., can precede the discovery of thousands more cases in nearby cities and states.

And it has shown, with tragic frequency, how vulnerable older adults are to the worst of the virus. Public health officials have linked at least 37 deaths to the Life Care nursing facility in Kirkland, Wash. The Times has also tracked outbreaks at other nursing and senior living facilities in Washington State, Colorado, Florida and Louisiana.

The goal of the tracking was to compile a historical record, with as much detail about individual patients as can be obtained, of the largest public health crisis in modern American history. By collecting the data continuously, and from multiple levels of government, The Times has been able to map the spread of the virus, with updated information published several times a day.

The Times’s database has already informed academic research that showed how the virus might be slowed, and what might happen if it is not. In the weeks and months ahead, it is our hope that the data can continue to inform researchers, policymakers and journalists as they seek to understand how this pandemic evaded containment, how it still might be mitigated and how similar disasters might be avoided in the future.

The tracking effort grew from a handful of Times correspondents to a large team of journalists that includes experts in data and graphics, staff news assistants and freelance reporters, as well as journalism students from Northwestern University, the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The reporting continues nearly all day and night, seven days a week, across U.S. time zones, to record as many details as possible about every case in real time. The Times is committed to collecting as much data as possible in connection with the outbreak and is collaborating with the University of California, Berkeley, on an effort in that state.

In tracking the cases, the reporting process is labor-intensive but straightforward much of the time. But with dozens of states and hundreds of local health departments using their own reporting methods — and sometimes moving patients from county to county or state to state with no explanation — judgment calls have sometimes been required.

When the federal government arranged flights to the United States for Americans exposed to the coronavirus in China and Japan, The Times recorded their cases in the states where they subsequently were treated, even though local health departments generally did not.

When a resident of Florida died in Los Angeles, we recorded her death as having occurred in California, though officials in Florida counted her case in their own records. When officials in some states reported new cases without immediately identifying where they were being treated, our team attempted to add county information later, once it became available.

This accounting is an attempt to record how and where the coronavirus has spread across the United States. But it is a product of a fragmented American public health system in which overwhelmed officials at the state or local level have sometimes struggled to report accurately and consistently.

On several occasions, officials have corrected information hours or days after they first reported it. Or cases have disappeared from a local database. Or states have created confusing, sometimes duplicative ways of tracking the cases of people who became ill while traveling. In those instances, which have become more common as caseloads have increased, The Times has sought to reflect the most current, accurate information while ensuring that every known case, each of them representing someone’s loved one, is counted.

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