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We’re Sharing Coronavirus Case Data for Every U.S. County

And it has shown, with tragic frequency, how vulnerable older adults are to the worst of the virus. Public health officials have linked at least 37 deaths to the Life Care nursing facility in Kirkland, Wash. The Times has also tracked outbreaks at other nursing and senior living facilities in Washington State, Colorado, Florida and Louisiana.

The goal of the tracking was to compile a historical record, with as much detail about individual patients as can be obtained, of the largest public health crisis in modern American history. By collecting the data continuously, and from multiple levels of government, The Times has been able to map the spread of the virus, with updated information published several times a day.

The Times’s database has already informed academic research that showed how the virus might be slowed, and what might happen if it is not. In the weeks and months ahead, it is our hope that the data can continue to inform researchers, policymakers and journalists as they seek to understand how this pandemic evaded containment, how it still might be mitigated and how similar disasters might be avoided in the future.

The tracking effort grew from a handful of Times correspondents to a large team of journalists that includes experts in data and graphics, staff news assistants and freelance reporters, as well as journalism students from Northwestern University, the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The reporting continues nearly all day and night, seven days a week, across U.S. time zones, to record as many details as possible about every case in real time. The Times is committed to collecting as much data as possible in connection with the outbreak and is collaborating with the University of California, Berkeley, on an effort in that state.

In tracking the cases, the reporting process is labor-intensive but straightforward much of the time. But with dozens of states and hundreds of local health departments using their own reporting methods — and sometimes moving patients from county to county or state to state with no explanation — judgment calls have sometimes been required.

When the federal government arranged flights to the United States for Americans exposed to the coronavirus in China and Japan, The Times recorded their cases in the states where they subsequently were treated, even though local health departments generally did not.

When a resident of Florida died in Los Angeles, we recorded her death as having occurred in California, though officials in Florida counted her case in their own records. When officials in some states reported new cases without immediately identifying where they were being treated, our team attempted to add county information later, once it became available.

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