Why did Covid-19 cases grow so rapidly in Yangzhou? The answer was in the epidemiological survey of 448 cases

Country/area: China

Organisation: The Paper (澎湃新闻)

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 13/08/2021

Credit: Wu Yinfang, Jiang Xiner, Zhang Zehong, Kong Jiaxing, Sun rui, Zhao Jiasheng, Wang Yu, Luo Yahan, Long Hui, Gong Wei, Cai Lin, Zhou Xinyu


This was a very intense project. Due to the heavy workload and limited time, we organized a project team of 12 people to complete all the work, including collecting and analyzing the data, sorting out the storyline, writing, and post-production.

Project description:

In July 2020, an epidemic that started at Nanjing Lukou Airport spread to several provinces and cities in China. A woman surnamed Mao, who traveled from Nanjing to Yangzhou, became a super-spreader: she played poker in a chess room in Yangzhou for several days, thus triggering a wave of an outbreak. This is the information we obtained from the epidemiological survey released by the government. We conducted a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the government survey of 448 newly infected cases in Yangzhou, and found out the reasons for the high number of its newly confirmed cases.


Impact reached:

Immediately after the video was released, it was reposted by major media outlets, with up to 700,000 hits across the web. It caused widespread discussion, with some netizens commenting, “This data model is so cool, and epidemiological surveys will be faster and more accurate if it’s based on this model.”

Techniques/technologies used:

Microsoft Excel: to input and analyze epidemiological survey data;

RAWGraphs: to generate the time interval from the first positive test to the final diagnosis of confirmed cases of Covid-19;

Flourish: to generate a roadmap of Covid-19 transmission;

Map Lab (based on Gaode Open Platform): to visualize the whereabouts of 448 Covid-19 patients prior to diagnosis;

Adobe Creative Suite (including Adobe Illustrator, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere, and Adobe Audition): creating animation; video, and audio editing.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The project took only four days from start to finish, but in reality, it was very time-consuming to comb through the epidemiological survey information of 448 cases published by the Yangzhou government. We mobilized a lot of manpower within the team to input the data and coordinated team members with different skills to complete the production of maps and charts, graphic design, and animation. All of this required a clear division of labor and careful time management skills.

What can others learn from this project?

We think it’s quite crucial for journalists to acquire the ability to mine data from public sources and use the data to explain why certain events might happen. In our project, by collecting and analyzing epidemiological survey data published by the government, we found out why the number of Covid-19 cases in Yangzhou kept growing. In this way, the whole story becomes more solid and convincing.

In addition, we think the role of reporters is not limited to delivering information to the public, but can also be extended to assist the government with decision-making. We think our analysis on the fast growth of Covid-19 cases may provide the local government with a method to track the transmission of infectious diseases.

Project links: