Mapping the Spread of the Novel Coronavirus: COVID-19

Caitlin Dempsey


This article was originally published January 25, 2020 and has since been updated with new information.

The entire world is dealing with an outbreak of a virus known formally as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (officially known as COVID-19). This newly identified strain of coronavirus was first detected in detected in Wuhan, China and has since been declared a pandemic. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses. For example, between 15-30% of cases of the common cold are thought to be caused by a coronavirus. Outbreaks of MERS and SARS were also caused by coronaviruses.

Mapping the 2019 Novel Coronavirus

Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is tracking the spread of COVID-19 in near-realtime. JHU developed a GIS Dashboard using ArcGIS Online that pulls relevant data from  WHO, U.S. CDCECDC China CDC (CCDC), NHC various European and Australian health agencies, and Dingxiangyuan (an aggregator site that pulls NHC summaries and local CCDC reports in near real-time). The online mapping application updates frequently each day to pull in fresh information about the spread of COVID-19. Cases are geocoded by either country (for most countries) and by province/county (for China and the US) on the map and represented by circles sized based on the number of cases. You can click on the individual entries listed in the “Confirmed Cases by Country/Region” section to pan to that country. Double-click on the map to zoom in, and use your mouse or trackpad to pan around the mouse with your cursor.

The coronavirus interactive map frame contains several tabs that lets you see different COVID-19 related maps. JHU recently added several changes as you can now look at a map fo COVID-19 by confirmed cases, active cases, incidence rate, and case fatality ratio (the ratio of confirmed cases against the death rate from COVID-19). There are also two United States specific maps: testing rate and hospitalization rate. The map dashboard also now has a section that lists total COVID-19 tests conducted by US state.

View the map: Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE

Map: Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE, screenshot captured April 21, 2020.

How to Access the GIS Data for the Spread of the Coronavirus

Johns Hopkins has made the data that it uses on the map dashboard available via its Github account. The data is available for research and educational use only. Visit: 2019 Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 (2019-nCoV) Data Repository.

Where Has the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Spread?

April 22, 2020: There are now 2,603,147 confirmed global cases of COVID-19. The United States continues to have the highest number of confirmed cases with 834,858. Total confirmed deaths from COVID-19 worldwide is 45,894. A total of 185 countries and regions are now reporting at least one confirmed case of COVID-19.

April 8, 2020: There are now 1,495,051 global cases of confirmed COVID-19. The United States now has the highest number of confirmed cases with 419,975. To date, there are 87,469 recorded deaths officially attributed to COVID-19 worldwide. A total of 184 countries and regions are reporting at least one confirmed case of COVID-19. Of the total confirmed cases ever reported, 317,640 are considered recovered.

March 29, 2020 update: There are now 718,685 confirmed cases with 33,881 deaths. Italy is the country with the highest number of deaths with 10,779. Spain is now the second highest country with 6,802 deaths. A total of 177 countries and special administrative regions are reporting at least one confirmed case of COVID-19.

March 6, 2020 Update: There are now 100,685 confirmed cases with 3,411 deaths. 55,753 cases are considered recovered. Outside of mainland China, there are 96 countries and special administrative regions that have at least one confirmed cases of COVID-19.

February 5, 2020 Update: There are now 27,669 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus outbreak and 563 deaths. For the first time, this update includes deaths that have happened outside of mainland China. The first death occurred on February 2 in the Philippines. A second death outside mainland China occurred on February 4, 2020 in Hong Kong. 27 countries and special administrative regions outside of mainland China have at least one confirmed case of the coronavirus.

January 31, 2020 Update: There are now 11,374 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 252 deaths. The vast majority (98.7%) of confirmed cases are still occurring in mainland China. The number of countries and special administrative regions reporting at least one confirmed case is now 26. In addition to the near-realtime information provided by the JHU Novel Coronavirus map, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) is providing frequent updates on the status of the virus.

As of January 25, 2020, there were 1,399 confirmed cases of coronavirus in China and 42 deaths. The first case detected outside of China was in Thailand. Two cases, one each in the states of Washington and Illinois have been detected in the United States. Other countries and special administrative regions reporting cases (a total of 32 additional) to date have been: Australia, Malaysia, Macau, Nepal, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and France. Wuhan is a major air transportation hub in central China, resulting in potentially infected travelers spreading the virus both locally within China (especially with Chinese New Year travel) and internationally.

Mapping the Risk of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

When new outbreaks of a disease are detected, epidemiologists use a variety of data sources to determine the risk of spread.

There are maps and online data dashboards being developed to assess the risk of this novel coronavirus spreading. These maps look at a patterns of transmission, existing cases, and other factors such as airline travel to assess the relative risk of the disease spreading both within China and to other countries.

At Northeastern University, the MOBS Lab is using data from crowdsourced sources such a, an online Chinese community for medical health professionals, along with other data sources to estimate  the risk of international dissemination of 2019-nCoV. The model assesses the mobility of individuals from 3,200 census areas in about 190 different countries to determine the risk of international dissemination.

The risk is visualization onto a map using EpiRisk, built by Northeastern’s  GLEAMviz (GLEAM stands for Global Epidemic and Mobility Model).

The interactive map visualizes the risk of the coronavirus outbreak spreading by factoring in commuting and airline travel. The computational platform can also be used to understand how changes to those travel patterns can alter the spread of an outbreak.

The results of calculations from EpiRisk have contributed to a brief paper published by MOBS Lab, “Early epidemiological analysis of the 2019-nCoV outbreak based on a crowdsourced data.” Users can explore the statistical details from the analysis in a Google Data Studio dashboard.


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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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