Minds Behind Instagram Bring COVID-19 Tracker - Rt.live

The genius minds behind Instagram are back with an amazing tool by the name of Rt.live. It is a COVID-19 tracker that relies on the COVID Tracking Project; a volunteer organization that is busy obtaining COVID-19 test information and results.

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, founders of Instagram, have once again gotten together to create something incredibly meaningful. Rt.live is the duo’s idea of helping the masses determine just how quickly the COVID-19 is spreading in various states.

The tracker relies on Rt – also known as the effective reproductive rate. This is the rate at which the disease is being transmitted. Simply put, the Rt value gives us an approximate idea about how many secondary infections have the probability of taking place through a single infection in any particular area. If the Rt value is more than 1, it implies that the virus is spreading at a higher rate. Whereas a number below 1 implies that the virus is being curbed.  For instance, Rt.live says that Georgia is currently facing an Rt value of 1.5 whereas the Rt value for New York has been brought down to 0.54, with credit going to the shelter-in-place order.

Mike Krieger said, ‘Kevin has been writing and publishing open-source data analysis notebooks on how to calculate Rt daily. We wanted to take that work and visualize it so anyone can see how their state is doing at curbing the spread’. So, the duo took this idea and then incorporated it into a tracker in a very simplistic manner. All states that have an Rt below 1, are shown as green dots, while the one with Rt values of 1 and more have been, aptly, colored red. Vermont currently enjoys the lowest Rt score, 0.33.

Krieger adds, ‘As states decide whether and how to open back up, they’ll have to manage their infection rate carefully, and we hope dashboards like rt.live will be helpful in doing so’. The duo believes that by showing the effects of aggressive measures being taken, in a manner that is simple to observe, they can play their part in convincing people to stay at home. Furthermore, Rt.live can also be used to determine which businesses should be reopened and which areas need more strict policy implementations.

The Rt.live tracker comes with different features including the ability to filter the results by areas/regions. You can also check out the states that have no shelter-in-place orders and compare them with the ones that are actively working towards curbing the spread of COVID-19. Kevin Systrom has been working on statistical models of his own, aimed at carrying out the tracking of coronavirus cases and deaths, and started publishing the results from 19th March. Krieger says, ‘We’d been talking about ways of working together and this came out of that — my first job out of school was actually doing data visualizations/analysis at Meebo so a blast from the past in more ways than one.’

Krieger explains, ‘We built Rt.live because we believe Rt — the effective infection rate — is one of the best ways to understand how COVID is spreading. It was great to work together again — we were able to take it from idea to launch in just a few days because of all our history & shared context.’


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