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Washington Post tracking coronavirus’s spread across the U.S.

“There’s a lot that we know or are learning about the coronavirus, but two seemingly basic questions are still difficult to answer: How many people have been infected with the virus and how many have been killed by it? That’s where Jacqueline Dupree comes in. Dupree, a technologist on The Post’s News Logistics team, has assumed the grim task of tracking the infection rates, death rates and covid-19 hospitalizations released by states. Before the coronavirus became a pandemic, Dupree was maintaining the newsroom’s internal website and preparing laptops for reporters. But when the virus started spreading, she began looking for answers and hunting for data in her spare time, even creating a spreadsheet with every statistic she could find. In March, The Post’s primary source for this data started to falter and it became clear that we needed to begin collecting it ourselves, so Post journalists could interpret and present it with transparency. As editors sorted out these questions in an online chat, Dupree chimed in to share her spreadsheet and explain what she’d learned. Soon, her home office became The Post’s hub for tracking the coronavirus’s spread across the U.S. “People want something to tell them ‘Is it getting better? Is it getting worse?’” Dupree said. “And [this data] is really all we have.” It’s messier than you think States don’t report their statistics in anything close to a standardized way, and they don’t always make the data accessible. Dupree had to write code that scrapes various state and county websites to compile the data every day. And even then, there are gaps. “You still can’t get deaths by county from the data posted by the state of Kansas,” she said…”

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