Blog March 25, 2020
2 min read

Understanding Coronavirus (COVID-19)

By Ramesh Natarajan Update (Dec 2020): This article is updated with an added reference to Tiger Analytics Pandemic Impact Index […]


By Ramesh Natarajan

Update (Dec 2020): This article is updated with an added reference to Tiger Analytics Pandemic Impact Index (Pandex)

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak is one of the biggest and unprecedented challenges encountered by humankind. There are numerous qualified individuals and organizations engaged in understanding and tackling this problem. Here are various data-backed resources we’ve found that can help one understand the problem better:

1. Adam Kucharski, a mathematician at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, talks to The New York Times about how they use math to help control outbreaks. He details how fatality rates are calculated (it is not deaths/cases), whether the current estimates make sense, and why the reproductive number R is important —

2. If you like watching videos, here is one by Khan Academy, the pioneering non-profit online learning platform. It builds on research by Tomas Pueyo and explains how actual COVID-19 cases in an area can be estimated based on the number of deaths. It takes into account parameters such as Number of Deaths, Estimations of Fatality/Mortality Rates, Time from Infection to Death, and Virus Spread Speed. Check out the video here —

3. Can non-traditional sources be used to reveal the true scale of an outbreak? Here is an article in the Wired about how satellite images, internet speed, and traffic data were used to predict that the scale of spread in Malaysia was far higher than what was told officially in the initial days —

4. And if you like looking at nicely done data visualizations, here is one by The New York Times on how the virus has spread from China to the rest of the world —

5. Atul Gawande, Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, writes in the New Yorker about how Singapore and Hong Kong have been able to tackle the problem successfully through a combination of extensive testing, rigorous contact tracing, citizen discipline, and social distancing —

6. The US has seen an unprecedented surge in unemployment. The lockdowns and closures have had its most impact on the Main Street businesses. The public health guidelines and population’s perception vary across localities and broader measurements fail to capture the pandemic impact at a local level. In this context, Tiger Analytics has created a Pandemic Impact Index at a local level. The index is presented as an intuitive dashboard that displays the most relevant and updated info from three different perspectives: health, economy, and public sentiment—

7. And if you are looking to get the best primary data on the status of the spread here are some trusted sources:

WHO Official Site:

Johns Hopkins University – Near Real-time Report

Public Datasets

Finally, are you interested in contributing to the research and problem solving currently taking place? The Allen Institute for AI (founded by Paul Allen, who started Microsoft with Bill Gates) has started a COVID-19 Open Research Dataset Challenge. They are looking for AI experts to develop text and data mining tools that can help the medical community develop answers to high priority scientific questions. More here —

If you come across interesting and relevant material by trusted authorities, please do share for the rest of us to educate ourselves further.

Stay safe!

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