Data visualization in a time of pandemic - #5: On top of the outbreak with daunting dashboards

This multi-chapter post is a work in progress. The first five chapters are currently finished, the final chapter will be added as soon as it is available.



Title: data visualization in a time of pandemic

Chapter 5: On top of the outbreak with daunting dashboards

There’s so much coronavirus data out there – and more is being generated every second. In order to keep the overview, or at least keep some of our sanity, many organizations and individuals have created dashboards. Rather than being a lengthy, descriptive overview, this chapter will point you to some of the best dashboards out there. For those who want to stay on top of things, even during these crazy times.

Dashboards by official organizations

The WHO maintains a Situation Dashboard. This one was recently updated to a much brighter and cleaner design. Make sure to scroll down to see more than just the map! Especially the breakdowns by country are a great addition:

Country breakdowns for the number of cases on the WHO Situation Dashboard

Country breakdowns for the number of cases on the WHO Situation Dashboard.

The WHO Regional Office for Europe also maintains a dashboard, albeit of somewhat dubious design quality. Nevertheless, it contains some interesting gauge graphs (created with Infogram) to illustrate how much the most affected countries contribute to the total number of cases in Europe:

Gauge graphs indicating the contribution of the most affected countries to the total number of cases and deaths (Source: WHO Regional Office for Europe)

Gauge graphs indicating the contribution of the most affected countries to the total number of cases and deaths (Source: WHO Regional Office for Europe).

The European CDC (Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) has its own dashboard, although in my experience, it is rather difficult to navigate, with a complex layout, a few visual bugs and some counterintuitive (sideways) scrolling which makes it difficult to quickly find the numbers you are looking for.

These are not the numbers you're looking for

Dashboards by experts

No, we are not talking about the many armchair virologists or epidemiologists popping up on social media or Medium. This is the real stuff: dashboards created by universities, groups of universities, or teams of experts.

Johns Hopkins University – of course, who else – has probably the most well-known dashboard on COVID-19, built in Ember.js. The focal point of this rather gloomy-colored dashboard is a bubble world map with different viewing options including confirmed cases, active cases, incidence rate and case-fatality ratio. The map is somewhat difficult to read for certain heavily affected regions, but can easily be zoomed in on:

Cumulative confirmed cases in Europe as visualized on the JHU dashboard

Cumulative confirmed cases in Europe as visualized on the JHU dashboard.

Around the central map, smaller boxes provide additional information, tables and graphs – the most macabre of all being the total number of deaths – 110.042 at the moment of writing this post…
General overview of the JHU dashboard

General overview of the JHU dashboard.

The Johns Hopkins dashboard also has a mobile-friendly version.

Other noteworthy expert dashboards include:

Novel Coronavirus Healthmap
If you ever wanted to look at coronavirus data from a different perspective…

Article-like dashboards

As you probably know by now I’m a sucker for beautiful examples of data journalism. An overview of dashboards would not be complete without mentioning some excellent articles summarizing our information about the outbreak:

Financial Times small multiples

More small multiples! MOAR! (Source: Financial Times)

Other initiatives

And finally, some other noteworthy initiatives:

  • The Coronavirus Dashboard by Avi Schiffmann and Jensen. Currently at the top of the Google results if you’re looking for coronavirus dashboards, well done!
  • Vinícius Henrique Neves created a dashboard in Microsoft Power BI.
  • Bing created their own dashboard, which adds some relevant news items and videos to the mix, as well as some interesting treemaps and strip charts:
Treemap and strip chart on the Bing COVID-19 dashboard

Treemap and strip chart on the Bing COVID-19 dashboard.


This is a multi-chapter blog post!

Continue reading:

There is one final upcoming chapter for this blog post:

  • Coronavirus storytelling and scrollytelling

For all your comments, suggestions, errors, links and additional information, you can contact me at koen@baryon.be or via Twitter at @koen_vde.


Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or a virologist. I am a physicist running my own business (Baryon) focused on information design.

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