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Showing how a disease spreads | How to be a journalist covering coronavirus

-It's the most read story in Washington Post history Shakira used it to ask people to stay home and governments to act

-Let's urge our leaders to implement 15 days of extreme social distancing Close schools and public places which are social gatherings to flatten that curve and to prevent further spread -The former President of the United States tweeted it, I saw Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan strong man leader sharing it on state TV -Graphics reporter, Harry Stevens, created this simulation to show how diseases spread exponentially And how everyone plays a part

-I'm at home, you're at home, our engineer Billy's at home We're social distancing -Yeah, that's right -Harry tells his story using dots -Even I didn't really get it until I saw the dots moving on my computer screen

Instead of trying to simulate COVID-19 in the real world with all of its complexities and complications, we chose to make a fake disease called simulitis And simulitis is pretty simple, whenever a sick person touches a healthy person, the healthy person gets sick Which, of course, is not like COVID-19, you won't always get sick if you come into contact with an infected person, but just to keep things simple we made that way And also, people, everybody who gets simulitis eventually recovers from it -And if this were COVID-19 some of those dots would be disappearing

-That's exactly right Simulitis doesn't kill, COVID-19 does So the first one starts out with 200 dots, all moving at the same speed, and you can see that just from moving around randomly and interacting randomly that the disease spreads very, very quickly through the whole community And that even when it starts with one person that the first person ends up infecting people all the way on the other side of the town -The second simulation, a forced quarantine

At first it looks good for the lucky dots outside the quarantine zone -And then what happens is that wall starts to open up, slowly So when that wall opens up, what that represents is the difficulty of enforcing one of these types of quarantines The logistical challenges of enforcing that kind of quarantine are varied and extreme -So what happens if most people adopt social distancing? -No quarantine, no walls, it's just you tell 3/4 of the dots or three quarters of the people in the town to just stay still

And the other quarter is moving, but the disease suddenly gets stopped, right? So the sick dot might be moving around and it might infect somebody who's still, but then that person who's still can't move around and infect other dots And just by asking 3/4 of the dots to remain still, suddenly the virus spreads much slower So then I just asked, you know half of the people that were moving before to stop moving So now only an 1/8 of the town is moving And that's just to show that with more social distancing, it makes it much harder for the disease to spread

So the metaphor there is that if our leaders and authorities can remove the opportunities for people to gather in public places by, for example stopping sporting events, or concerts, then it'll remove the likelihood that people will interact with each other Just that simple representation of how networks work, helped me to understand how slowing things down can really reduce the rate of transmission -Harry was in graduate school when he discovered using graphics and data in simulations Before that he focused on words -I didn't actually know that this was a job, but I went to journalism school and there was a class on data visualization

So I took that class and I just kind of got hooked after that You know, seeing how you could communicate so much information in such exciting and fun ways in graphics just really captivated me -And now his article has been translated and read all over the world -A lot of people are feeling understandably very anxious right now and also, like they have no control over what's happening in the world And one of the things that I've heard from readers is that seeing these simulations kind of gives them hope and also a sense of control

Like, if I am one of those dots on the screen, there's something that I can do to change my own behavior to improve the situation for everybody And that thing that I have to do is pretty simple, it's just to not move around

Source: Youtube

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