(Gray News) - Gray Television, which owns this website, announced Thursday that its county-by-county COVID-19 tracker has surpassed 1 million views, keeping local communities informed about emerging hot spots across the U.S.
The tracker was developed in mid-March by InvestigateTV, Gray’s national investigative team and provides information on a more granular level than most available public sources.
The tool collects positive test results by county and then compares them to the population level in each county so that relative rates of reported infections can be followed.
That information is then condensed into special reports that are delivered to all Gray television stations nightly.
Using the tracker, the InvestigateTV team was able to report New Orleans as a hot spot before other newsgathering operations were able to do so.
“The idea was born while in a 14-day self-isolation,” said Lee Zurik, Gray’s director of investigations.
Zurik began working from home several weeks ago after he learned that a fellow conference attendee had contracted COVID-19.
“We realized pretty quickly at that point that reporting the numbers in a crisis of this magnitude just wasn’t enough," Zurik said. “We needed to get ahead of the information.”
InvestigateTV has developed other tracking tools related to the pandemic, including unemployment numbers and stay-at-home restrictions by state.
“The data in the tracker allows the InvestigateTV team to examine critical issues with comparative analysis, such as the number of ICU beds in a given area compared to the number of positive cases and growth rate,” said Sandy Breland, Gray Sr. Vice President of Local Media.
Gray’s DC News Bureau is using information gleaned from the tracker to follow up with lawmakers on critical local concerns.
“Our Washington, D.C. bureau was able to highlight the plight of rural Georgia to Sen. (Kelly) Loeffler and ask how federal resources will be directed to other under-reported hot spots in Georgia and elsewhere,” Breland said.