University of Virginia
The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the forefront an unprecedented need for experts, as well as citizens, to visualize spatio-temporal disease surveillance data. Web application dashboards were quickly developed to fill this gap, including those built by JHU, WHO, and CDC, but all of these dashboards supported a particular niche view of the pandemic (ie, current status or specific regions). In this paper, we describe our work developing our own COVID-19 Surveillance Dashboard, available at https://nssac.bii.virginia.edu/covid-19/dashboard/, which offers a universal view of the pandemic while also allowing users to focus on the details that interest them. From the beginning, our goal was to provide a simple visual way to compare, organize, and track near-real-time surveillance data as the pandemic progresses. Our dashboard includes a number of advanced features for zooming, filtering, categorizing and visualizing multiple time series on a single canvas. In developing this dashboard, we have also identified 6 key metrics we call the 6Cs standard which we propose as a standard for the design and evaluation of real-time epidemic science dashboards. Our dashboard was one of the first released to the public, and remains one of the most visited and highly used. Our group uses it to support federal, state and local public health authorities, and it is used by people worldwide to track the pandemic evolution, build their own dashboards, and support their organizations as they plan their responses to the pandemic. We illustrate the utility of our dashboard by describing how it can be used to support data story-telling - an important emerging area in data science.