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Coronavirus tracker: Evolution of the pandemic captured in our pages

On March 18, the Southern California News Group and Bay Area News Group published their first coronavirus daily tracker in all 15 of their California regional newspapers.

Since then, the tracker has posted daily, providing readers with a comprehensive look at how the virus has spread throughout California’s 58 counties, as well as in the United States and around the world.

Data is collected daily from more than 70 websites make up this tracker featuring charts, graphs and heat maps. More than 500,000 pieces of information have been published in the span of 289 days, and it is constantly changing to meet the needs of its readers.

Here’s a look at how the pandemic and our daily tracker have evolved though 2020.


The first tracker: On March 18, a large heat map of California counties highlighted total infections and total deaths by area. California had only 590 infections and 11 deaths on that day. The tracker listed the most-infected counties down the right side. Santa Clara County was the only county with more than 100 infections. Los Angeles County was second with 94 infections. The lower right side featured tips on how to minimize spreading the infection. The fever chart along the bottom of the page kept track of China’s infections in comparison with the rest of the world. At the time, China had roughly 85,000 infections and the rest of the world had just over 80,000. Heat maps were used to track total cases for the U.S. and world.

March 18



The first wave begins: By April, the tracker map was getting darker. California had increased from 590 cases on March 18 to 7,676 cases and 162 deaths, while Los Angeles County jumped from 94 infections to 3,011, nearly half the state’s infections. It was the county with the highest rate of infections. County public health websites were providing us with more data and with most of the counties registering infections. The tracker featured a complete list of all the counties with cases, infections and cases per 100,000. The fever chart at the bottom of the page was eliminated and large blue numbers to highlight cases and deaths for California, U.S. and the world were added.

April 1



The wave in full force: On May 1, California had more than 50,000 cases and 2,000 deaths. Only Modoc, Lassen, Sierra and Trinity counties were without infections. Los Angeles County had more than 23,000 cases, up 3,011 from  April 1. The U.S. surpassed 1 million cases with 61,000 deaths and globally there were more than 3 million cases with more than 200,000 deaths.

The tracker now had more than 2,000 pieces of data. At the top was a chart that plotted daily deaths in California as well as a projection of future deaths with a margin of error. The tracker also included new cases and deaths for all California counties along the right side of the page and new cases and deaths for all the U.S. states and top countries. Charts for daily cases in the state and the U.S. were also featured as well as a heat map of California cases per 100,000.

May 1


Numbers continue to double: California had more than doubled its total cases and deaths. The tracker now featured these numbers and hospitalizations along the top. Modoc County was now the only county without any infections, while Los Angeles County surpassed 50,000 cases. The tracker now had bar charts for daily cases and deaths for the state, nation and world. It also featured heat maps for new cases per 100,000 and new daily cases. Cases by age were also added.

June 1



Hospitalizations on the rise: By July 1, California’s cases topped 230,000 and deaths just more than 6,000. Hospitalizations were on the rise as well, so a chart was added to track that daily. The tracker’s color palette changed to cooler tones, and charts now featured 7-day averages.

July 1


The first wave levels off: Hospitalizations, daily cases and daily deaths were stabilizing and in some cases decreasing. The tab chart for California now included hospitalizations and ICU beds. The tracker added charts on cases and deaths by age, which illustrated that ages 18-49 accounted for more than 60% of all cases while those 70 and older accounted for more than 70% of all deaths. California was at near 500,000 total cases and more than 9,000 total deaths.

Aug. 1



Wave on the decline: On Sept. 1, the rate of total cases and deaths for California slowed more from the previous month while hospitalizations dropped by nearly half. The tracker now included charts for cases and deaths by race for the state.

Sept 1


Gearing up for the second wave: Total cases for California had slowed down substantially, though they still had increased by roughly 115,000 since Sept. 1 to 816,568. The seven-day averages of daily cases and deaths were on the decline in California, and the number of hospitalizations were down by half. However, health officials were warning of a second wave to come during the winter months. In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom implemented the color-coded, tier system to show county risk levels, which was added to the tracker.

Oct. 1



The second wave begins: By Nov. 1, California surpassed 900,000 cases; there had been roughly 110,000 new cases since Oct. 1. While daily deaths were stable, hospitalizations and daily cases in California were beginning to rise as cases across the U.S. were spiking. With California health officials tracking 14-day total new cases per 10,000 residents in the tier system, the county map was redesigned to also show total new cases per 10,000 in the past 14 days. Spreadsheets and charts were automated to keep up with the tremendous amount of data being displayed.

Nov. 1



All-time highs: The second wave health officials feared had arrived. California was divided into five regions to monitor hospital ICU capacities and issued stay-at-home orders for regions that fell below 15% available capacity. By Dec. 13, four of the five regions were under stay-at-home orders. At the same time, on Dec. 14 the first vaccinations were distributed. The daily tracker added the stay-at-home regional map and U.S. vaccination numbers. By Dec. 31, California’s total cases reached 2,230,094, more than double the cases it had Nov. 1.

Dec. 31

Source: Orange County Register

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