2021 Shortlist

Why Is the Risk of Coronavirus Transmission so High Indoors?

Country/area: Germany

Organisation: Zeit Online

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 26 Nov 2020

Credit: Fabian Dinklage, Annick Ehmann, Elena Erdmann, Moritz Klack, Maria Mast, Julian Stahnke, Julius Tröger, Claudia Vallentin, Paul Blickle

Project description:

Let’s assume you meet with another household and spend four hours together indoors. Later, it turns out that one person was carrying the new coronavirus. How high is the risk that someone has become infected – and how high is the risk for you personally? 

Aerosols can carry Sars-CoV-2 from one person to another. Our interactive calculator allows for readers to design a room and determine how many people will be in, under what conditions. To visualize the risk of infection for various scenarios we have used data from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany. 

Impact reached:

The tool was used several million times and is even shared today daily on Social Media. It helped millions of people to be more aware of the high risk of Coronavirus transmission indoors and even served policy makers to illustrate the risk of transmission indoors. While there was a discussion in Germany on the importance of FFP2 masks, our tool showed what huge difference those masks make.

Techniques/technologies used:

Our first mockups are based on collaborative Zoom and Figma sessions from everyone’s home office. From there on we mainly used Javascript and React to create the web app. For the animations of thousands of aerosol particles we used the Javascript library Pixi.JS. We used CSS transforms to construct a three-dimensional room with an isometric perspective.

What was the hardest part of this project?

Our main challenge was to visualize complex scientific data in a model and to make it as accessible and understandable as possible for everyone. But at the same time we had to communicate uncertainty and error margins of said model. 

What can others learn from this project?

The close cooperation between scientists and journalists has shown: together we can visualize complex findings in a vivid way. When you want to visualize people, it’s important to show the diversity of our society. We made an enormous effort to create illustrations of people with different backgrounds and characteristics. The appreciation of our readers showed us: the effort was definitely worth it.

Project links:


Original German version: www.zeit.de/wissen/gesundheit/2020-11/coronavirus-aerosole-ansteckungsgefahr-infektion-hotspot-innenraeume