UMD Researchers Develop Web Application to Track Progression of COVID-19

May 09, 2020

A team of researchers at the University of Maryland has developed a novel news and tweet aggregating web application that is able to track the progression of COVID-19 over space and time.

The web application, called NewsStand CoronaViz, is a research prototype that enables dynamic map visualizations of COVID-19 variables that are accessed with a map query interface. These variables change over time and space and include the current number of infections, active cases, recoveries, and deaths that are reported on a daily basis from a Johns Hopkins University website.

That information is then bolstered by any reference to COVID-19 in news articles and tweets as they occur in real time, and which are associated with the underlying spatial region.

The web application is being developed by a team led by Distinguished University Professor of Computer Science Hanan Samet (left in photo), and includes John Kastner, who is completing a master’s degree in computer science, and Hong Wei, who is expected to receive his doctorate in computer science this month.

Samet has an appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, which is providing technical and administrative support for the team.

The researchers say their application can be useful in helping public health officials use animation to better anticipate the emergence and spread of COVID-19 in new regions, as well as its decline in current hotspots. This, in turn, can influence decisions on quarantine restrictions such as the reopening of public spaces.

While numerous systems already exist to monitor and map officially released numbers of coronavirus cases, these systems are mostly static, not dynamic, and thus do not necessarily paint a complete picture, according to the UMD team.

In order to handle the news articles and tweets, NewsStand CoronaViz makes use of NewsStand, which was developed by a group led by Samet several years ago, and was profiled in a video produced by the Association for Computing Machinery.

The UMD team is planning to submit a paper that provides a description of NewsStand CoronaViz to an upcoming visualization conference.

—Story by Melissa Brachfeld