ArcGIS Living Atlas

COVID-19 Trends

For the first time, we are experiencing a global pandemic and analyzing it as it happens. Using five-research based pandemic trends we describe how each country is doing. To explain the trends, we created the COVID-19: The First Global Pandemic of the Information Age Story Map. The story also has maps showing the key aspects of each country’s situation. We will update the maps each day with the previous day of data from Johns Hopkins University.

Our motivation

The process to develop these trends began with learning about the six phases of a pandemic as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). The sixth phase is community level outbreaks occurring in two or more regions of the world. This phase describes the current situation our world is facing.

This is a good time to offer credit to Johns Hopkins University for inspiring what we did next. Their Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases Dashboard was our inspiration and shows where new cases occur in countries around the world. The Johns Hopkins team makes updates as information becomes available. We took a special interest in the graphs in the lower right corner of their dashboard. These illustrate the rate at which new cases occur. These graphs show the “curves” people talk about wanting to “flatten” by slowing or stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Historically, analysts would create such graphs after a pandemic ends. Then they would split the graphs into pre- and post-peak to develop narratives for what occurred. Fast forward to a world with near-real-time data updates for COVID-19, and these graphs are able to provide new insights with every update. Listening to experts explain the recent changes led to the idea to interpret the curves as trends. 

The five trends

We defined these trends using the number of new cases each day, but found we also needed the number of cases per 100,000 people in each country. Thus, we used estimates for 2020 population from the U.N. World Urbanization Prospects with the COVID-19 data to calculate the rate of cases in each country.

This example graph shows the five trends:

Illustrates the trends for the COVID-19 pandemic

We chose to call these “trends” because there is not enough data to explain or defend a more confident designation such as “Stage” or “Phase.” Ideally, we would know how many people have been tested, the rates of positive tests, and the number of locales experiencing outbreaks within each country.

We have released the COVID-19: The First Global Pandemic of the Information Age Story Map to tell the story of these trends. These maps, updated daily from Johns Hopkins data, contextualize and describe the most recent trends of the COVID-19 global pandemic in each country. As you explore the maps, click on a country to learn specifics about its current trend.

We hope that this information is both interesting and useful to individuals, businesses and governments who wish to track the evolving pandemic and make decisions about next actions.

For those interested in the methodology we developed for determining each country’s trend, we include it as the description for the web map we used in the story map.


About the authors

I am Chief Cartographer at Esri, and manage the Cartographic Projects Group on the Content Team. I have been with Esri in Software Products since 1994. I am currently the author of Esri's Ecological Land Unit services, global ecological content, and the World Population Estimate Services. Contact me at with questions or feedback.


Este Geraghty, MD, MS, MPH, CPH, GISP is the Chief Medical Officer at Esri, developer of the world’s most powerful mapping and analytics platform. She heads Esri's worldwide health and human services practice and is passionate about transforming health organizations through a geographic approach. Previously, she was the deputy director of the Center for Health Statistics and Informatics at the California Department of Public Health. There she engaged in statewide initiatives in meaningful use, health information exchange, open data and interoperability. While serving as an associate professor of clinical internal medicine at the University of California (UC), Davis she conducted research on geographic approaches to influencing health policy and advancing community development programs. Geraghty is the author of numerous health and GIS peer reviewed papers and book chapters. She has lectured extensively around the world on a broad range of topics that include social determinants of health, open data, climate change, homelessness, access to care, opioid addiction, privacy issues and public health preparedness. She received her medical degree, master's degree in health informatics, and master's degree in public health from UC Davis. She is board certified in public health (CPH) and is also a geographic information system professional (GISP).

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