One of the most uplifting online resources for data about the coronavirus pandemic is nCoV2019.live, a site that tracks coronavirus data country-by-country and, within countries, territory-by-territory. It’s an incredible source of up to date information for anyone following the pandemic — 40 percent of its millions of daily visitors are located outside of the United States — but what’s more incredible is that it was created by a high school junior.
Avi Schiffmann is a 17-year-old from Mercer Island, Washington. He started the site all the way back in December, well before the disease had been detected anywhere outside of China. Schiffmann’s site aggregates data from reputable sources to create a quantitative picture of the pandemic. He explained his vision in a recent interview with Democracy Now!
“The main goal of it was to provide just an easy way to see the straight facts and the data,” he said. “I didn’t want to make it hard. You know, you shouldn’t have to go through government websites and download like a daily PDF that’s probably out of date by the time you read it, and, you know, have to go through all kinds of complicated things, just to see, you know, the straight facts.”
Schiffmann said that he’s been coding for about a decade — an impressive amount of time for a kid who can’t even buy a lotto ticket yet. His biggest innovation was using something called web scraping that essentially automates the process of checking data sources — health departments and reputable news sources from around the world — and copying that information into a centralized repository.
You can find the number of confirmed cases, serious cases, and deaths, but the most interesting thing about Schiffmann’s website is that it also tracks recovered cases, a metric that isn’t featured prominently on many news sites.
“I started to get a lot of emails saying that the site was kind of overly negative,” he recalled. “I decided that it would be really cool if I could show how many people were recovering, to give people a more positive outlook and maybe more hope. So I added that to the quick facts. In every single country, you can see how many people have recovered, which I think gives people a lot of hope.”
Schiffmann eventually plans on adding a tracker of how many people have been vaccinated once a vaccine becomes available. And he’ll have a lot more time to work on his website considering that his own school is now closed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
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