Cartographies of COVID-19: Our Unclear Path Forward

32. The enduring conceit of “hot-spots” of COVID-19 was floated long before the county of mortality exploded, but the path of infections could be predicted, as the incubation of the severe respiratory affliction had failed to be contained. If the maps of locations of people testing positive for COVID-19 in the United States that ran in the New York Times seemed like necessary counter-argument to the assurances Donald Trump south to provide the nation and the global markets, seeking to tame worries by assurances of testing, remedies in preparation or shown to be clinically effective, and security measures he had undertaken–lies that elevated the need for stark data visualizations that might better orient readers–even these data were often insufficient, constrained by few tests distributed, uneven counts, approximations, and the lack of a national testing system.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dot-density-april-9-mapbox-map.png
Hovermap of April 9, 2020/Mapbox

Increasingly, dot density maps adopted in the New York Times. Their metric, and their striking use of red, alerting us to the spread of disease that was challenging our attention, became a better default to map the extent of the pathogen’s diffusion able to reveal the contours of the crisis of viral transmission across expanse; late March hover maps suggested the distance of the disease from the nation as a whole.

If the databases of influenza mortality as a whole in 1999-2013, revealed a pronounced increase in morbidity, according to the Human Cause of Death Database, creating a striking rate of comorbidity for Covid-19.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is recent-influenza-mortality-age-patterns-in-the-human-cause-of-death-database-demogblog.png
Human Mortality Classified as due to Influenza in United States across Age Groups, 1999-2013
Human Cause of Death Database (HCDD)

The danger that the infection posed to populations showed a widely ranging differences of mortality rates among those infected–a range that roughly mirrors senescence, and that reflects the distribution of mortality due to flu in recent years–although the pronounced jump in age coteries many misread as absolute, given the pronounced jump of mortality rates among the age group above eighty, a leap seen as more pronounced without noting percentages of COVID-19 infections.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is death-rate-covid-19-march-17.png

The reporting of the greater mortality among aging populations parallels the rates of death by senescence, if BBC was accused of inadvertently magnifying the danger to the elderly, as it sought to illustrate the pronounced differences of infected among those with compromised immunity systems, and the striking risks for those with cardiovascular diseases, whose increased mortality we don’t fully understand, as well as the risk of mortality posed for those with diabetes or respiratory conditions. The increased mortality elder cohorts faced for influenza is striking.

The pronounced rise in rates of mortality is not revealed in the crowded buffers of the peaks of the Times visualization, but the overcrowded space of infections was concretized in those new peaks and valleys, a striking snapshot of an unprecedented sudden spike in one week.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is nyc-deaths-sudden-spike.png

Unlike most static images, the peaks break the calm of the radiating buffers of confirmed infections.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is mabox-borders-infectsion-.png
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is march-31-coronavirus-rported-cases.png

The cartographic concept of “hot-spots” of COVID-19 was floated long before the county of mortality exploded, but the path of infections could be predicted, as the incubation of the severe respiratory affliction had failed to be contained. If the maps of locations of people testing positive for COVID-19 in the United States that ran in the New York Times seemed like necessary counter-argument to the assurances Donald Trump south to provide the nation and the global markets, seeking to tame worries by assurances of testing, remedies in preparation or shown to be clinically effective, and security measures he had undertaken–lies that elevated the need for stark data visualizations that might better orient readers–even these data were often insufficient, constrained by few tests distributed, uneven counts, approximations, and the lack of a national testing system.

Hovermap of April 9, 2020/Mapbox

Increasingly, dot density maps adopted int he New York Times became a better default to map the extent of the pathogen’s diffusion able to reveal the contours of the crisis of viral transmission across expanse; late March hover maps suggested the distance of the disease from the nation as a whole.

If the databases of influenza mortality as a whole in 1999-2013, revealed a pronounced increase in morbidity, according to the Human Cause of Death Database, creating a striking rate of comorbidity for Covid-19.

Human Mortality Classified as due to Influenza in United States across Age Groups, 1999-2013
Human Cause of Death Database (HCDD)

The danger that the infection posed to populations showed a widely ranging differences of mortality rates among those infected–a range that roughly mirrors senescence, and that reflects the distribution of mortality due to flu in recent years–although the pronounced jump in age coteries many misread as absolute, given the pronounced jump of mortality rates among the age group above eighty, a leap seen as more pronounced without noting percentages of COVID-19 infections.

The reporting of the greater mortality among aging populations parallels the rates of death by senescence, if BBC was accused of inadvertently magnifying the danger to the elderly, as it sought to illustrate the pronounced differences of infected among those with compromised immunity systems, and the striking risks for those with cardiovascular diseases, whose increased mortality we don’t fully understand, as well as the risk of mortality posed for those with diabetes or respiratory conditions. The increased mortality elder cohorts faced for influenza is striking.

The pronounced rise in rates of mortality is not revealed in the crowded buffers of the peaks of the Times visualization, but the overcrowded space of infections was concretized in those new peaks and valleys, a striking snapshot of an unprecedented sudden spike in one week.

Unlike most static images, the peaks break the calm of the radiating buffers of confirmed infections.

Reported Coronavirus Cases (Mapbox, New York Times) March 31, 2020

2 Comments

Filed under data visualization, disease maps, infectious diseases, public health, US Politics

2 responses to “Cartographies of COVID-19: Our Unclear Path Forward

  1. Rachel brownstein

    It is amazing that his response is to close the borders. Has to be something weirder than denial, as you suggest. Border closing as both cause and “cure”.

    • The denial might be strategic, in part, as well as cognitive. The desire to bracket the danger of the problem suggests not only a cavalier nature to reality, and the hubris of being in control of the situation, but inability to acknowledge the responsibility of governments and the desire to be able to shift discussion to a story of personal ability. The crisis offers an opportunity to achieve an existing goal–as about American companies leaving China!–but as able to be leveraged to his own good in multiple ways.

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