Charts That Will Convince You to Stay Home

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One bright side of the coronavirus crisis has been the use of data visualization to convince people of the merits of social distancing. As a data nerd, it makes me incredibly happy to see a sizable chunk of the non-nerdy population talking about “flattening the curve.”

If you understood this chart, you’ve understood normal distribution, standard deviation, and variance, three foundational statistical concepts. The idea behind social distancing is to stay at home or away from people (whether you have the virus or not) so you can slow the spread of the virus and not overburden the healthcare system. The flatter the curve, the higher the standard deviation, which in this case means fewer people are infected at the same time.

If you’re not still not convinced that social distancing would help, here’s a series of simulations by the Washington Post that go through various hypothetical scenarios from forced quarantine (as China did in some provinces) to moderate self-imposed social distancing. The interactive charts clearly show that when fewer people are out and about, the virus takes much longer to spread. 

This chart from Datawrapper shows some countries have been able to slow down the spread of the virus by visualizing how long it takes for the number of COVID-19 cases to double. Turns out that many European countries and the U.S. are still seeing cases double every 2-3 days, but South Korea and China have been able to slow the number of cases doubling to much longer, thus flattening the curve.

Last, but not the least, this positive chart from epidemiologist Britta Jewell shows how one person can make a huge difference. According to her estimates, your choice to socially distance yourself today can prevent 2,400 people from being infected over a month. Yet if you wait another week to hole up, you’ll only avert 600 infections. The coronavirus may spread exponentially, but so do the benefits of staying home and checking out cool charts. 

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Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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