University News

WIU EAGIS Department and GIS Center Create Statewide COVID-19 Dashboard to Monitor Reported Cases

March 26, 2020


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MACOMB, IL -- The Western Illinois University GIS Center, in cooperation with the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Geographic Information Sciences (EAGIS), have assembled a statewide web map to monitor the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Illinois.

Assembling the map began when Renée Büker, GIS Center specialist, created a map of cases in west central Illinois at the request of Fulton County Emergency Management Coordinator Chris Helle. Later, the Illinois GIS Association (ILGISA) requested the GIS Center construct a web map that could be posted on the organization's web site.

Christopher Sutton, EAGIS cartography and GIS professor, was brought in to consult with map visualization for the online Covid-19 map and WIU GIS Center Director and ILGISA President Chad Sperry built an online dashboard to accompany the map to summarize statewide totals.

"While news outlets report overall numbers of cases, the patterns of the cases are not easily understood by hearing reports or looking at data tables," Sutton said. "With critically important and dynamic data such as COVID-19 cases, being able to visualize the data in a map effectively communicates the information to non-experts."

The map highlights counties where cases have been reported and symbolizes the number of cases. By using a web environment, the map can be rapidly distributed and users can pan and zoom around the map to focus on particular areas of the map.

Data at the county level are reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health and respective agencies in states bordering Illinois.
"One thing that is different about this map compared to other online state maps is that we show counties surrounding Illinois in the neighboring states," added Sperry. "It's important that Illinois residents be aware of cases in St. Louis, Milwaukee or Iowa City, not just those within Illinois."

According to Sutton, the map gets updated as IDPH and other agencies release their official reports, which thus far have been once daily. While the map data may lag slightly behind cases that are reported by local news outlets, the information presented still remains fairly up-to-date, he said.

Sperry noted the GIS Center is well-equipped to update the map despite the need for social distancing and self-isolation as they are able work together from their respective homes and coordinate through the Center's web mapping environment.

"Our GIS faculty and GIS Center staff are well-versed in GIS technologies, and foremost, they make sure to share their expertise for the public good. In addition to training students to acquire GIS skill sets, they also value a sense of community, applying their expertise to statewide geospatial mapping, including the Covid-19, flooding, warming centers and tornado damage assessment, etc. They are great at what they do," said EAGIS Chair Samuel Thompson.

To view the map, visit https://arcg.is/0OTGSP

"The WIU GIS Center has a history of serving the state of Illinois and its residents," Sperry added. "This includes the Taylorville tornado of 2018, the flood of 2019 and now COVID-19-related resources. We are honored to provide this service to our community."

Posted By: WIU News (U-Relations@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations