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Why do these COVID maps look different?

March 30, 2021 am31 10:04 am

The first map I created, using NPR’s spread-tracking webpage. They, in turn, take their data from Johns Hopkins. The second map I found on the buzzfeed version of the widely-reported story about the CDC’s Rochelle Walensky‘s very candid comments yesterday. The map itself seems to have originated at The New York Times.

The maps look different because they are reporting different things. My map indicates if the current rate is high or low. The Times’ indicates if the rate is going up or down.

Look at Hawaii. Hawaii currently is experiencing 7 new cases daily for every 100,000 people who live there. In the US today, that’s almost the lowest rate. On my map Hawaii shows up green – my low category. But a few days ago Hawaii’s number was 4. From 4 to 7 – that’s huge increase by percentage, and the Times shows Hawaii pretty red.

Look at Idaho. Idaho’s current rate is 16 per 100,000, higher than Washington (12), Oregon (8), Nevada (9), Utah (13), Wyoming (11), and Montana (14) – all of its neighbors. But because Idaho’s numbers are still falling, it shows up green on the Times map. In fact, all of these states have significantly lower current numbers than New England and the mid-Atlantic.

Look at New Jersey. The Times shows it light red, not as bad as its neighbors. But Jersey’s numbers started higher than all of its neighbors, except New York. Even with a slower growth rate, the new case rate is 50 for every 100,000 – the second highest in the country. After New York.

Overall, the maps look similar. For those of you who like saying it this way, my map is the current proportion, the Times is the first derivative with respect to time. They do not look very different. But where there are differences, you probably want to go with me, not the other guys, especially when you consider how the other guys have covered the pandemic.

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