Scientist develops interactive tool for mapping COVID-19

Covidmapper captures data from around the world on the progression and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Katie Willis - 07 April 2020

A team of University of Alberta researchers have developed an interactive tool to visualize past, current, and future data for the COVID-19 pandemic

The tool—called Covidmapper—functions like a heatmap, displaying information about the impact of COVID-19 virus around the world, using several different algorithms to pull and process data provided by the World Health Organization as well as governments and post-secondary institutions around the world. 

“Covidmapper is more flexible and informative than almost any other heat mapping tool on the web,” explained David Wishart, professor in the University of Alberta's Department of Biological SciencesDepartment of Computing Science, and Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. “We plot the number of cases, the number of deaths, the daily percentage change of cases and deaths, the number of COVID tests performed, and most importantly, the ‘real’ number of cases—calculated from several models of the incident fatality rates.”

Covidmapper allows users to select any date and see what the COVID numbers look like in the past, today, or projected in the future. The software is based on a web-based tool originally developed by Wishart and his colleagues in 2016 for plotting various kinds of biomedical data, called Heatmapper

“Epidemiologists use geographic mapping data to track epidemics and pandemics,” said Wishart. “However, we felt it was also important to collect and publicly release this COVID data in a format that is usable and understandable by the public, the news media, politicians, public health officials, medical groups, and other members of the community that are trying to understand or plan for the pandemic.

“This will help convince people to take the pandemic more seriously. I think by making the data more accessible, more visual, and more interactive, more of the public and more health officials can be more informed.”

Eventually, the data collected by Covidmapper could be used by epidemiologists to see how the pandemic evolved, to determine which interventions were effective, and to inform future pandemic planning. Covidmapper is available online, and all data collected on COVID statistics is free to download.