PA Novel Coronavirus Dashboard


March 11, 2020, Center staff were busy working on a spatially-explicit data dashboard to help PA residents understand where the virus was detected and where it might spread next? They were inspired by the now famous Johns Hopkins COVID map, but were disappointed that at the time it only provided positive cases at the state level in the U.S., which was insufficient for residents of the commonwealth to use for their own decision-making. Operating from a library ethic of providing public access to government information, they harvested tabular information posted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and created a first draft of the Pennsylvania Novel Coronavirus Dashboard.

Acknowledging that we were not the experts on presenting data on human disease transmission, we reached out to colleagues in the Penn State Huck Institute’s Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics and Department of Public Health for help and guidance designing the dashboard. Under their guidance, we included daily data on testing effort, positivity ratio, and detection of new cases daily (instead of cumulatively) — all of which were innovations in visualizing COVID-19 data on public dashboards at the time.


The PA Novel Coronavirus Dashboard was the only county-level presentation of COVID-19 cases in PA for approximately three critical weeks in the early days of the pandemic. It was visited over 90,000 times in the 12 weeks that it was posted. It was also used by the Penn State COVID-19 Crisis Management Team for internal planning purposes, was featured on Penn State News, was shared by Penn State Strategic Communications with reporters from PennLive, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and WTAE Channel 4 Action News Pittsburgh.

Most rewarding for the project team was learning about how the dashboard was being used by local businesses like the Raystown Lake Resort to make decisions about whether to receive guests and from where, and how it was being used in a local middle school science class.

In the fall of 2020, project lead Brittany Waltemate received funding to attend library school at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville through the prestigious IMLS Collaborative Analysis Liaison Librarians program.

See the Penn State News article (April 6, 2020) for reference.


Brittany Waltemate, Heather Ross, Nathan Piekielek (listing only people from the Center for Maps & Geospatial Information)


Funding was generously provided by the Sally W. Kalin Early Career Endowment for Technological Innovations.