A COVID Dashboard for Acadiana

At some point in May (2020), it became clear that one of the things we were facing both nationally and locally was a lack of clear information about the status of COVID — and there were far too many outlets and venues happy, as always, to pounce upon both genuine confusion as well as incipient paranoia. As a folklorist, I am of course interested in the legendry that has sprung up but as a resident of my community I am equally concerned that people don’t have easy access to information about the local scene.

When I came across Bee Guan Teo’s “Has Europe Past the First Peak of COVID-19 Outbreak?” on Towards Data Science (link), I decided to start work on what I imagined as a dashboard to let people keep abreast of the situation here in south Louisiana: COVID-19 in Acadiana was the result.

While it would seem obvious to host the page as part of this WordPress installation, my desire to have the information update daily and to do so in as automated, and thus less prone to human-induced error, a fashion as possible made it more likely that I would develop a dedicated site for the purpose. (And, let’s be clear, the role played by my own limitations with hacking either WordPress or PHP.)

The current version of COVID-19 in Acadiana is in fact built with MkDocs, a Python library that makes it easy to create a status website using Markdown. As the name suggests, it is built with documentation in mind, and so it really isn’t made to support a blog or something like that. (One day I will explore those possibilities.)

COVID-19 in Acadiana is essentially a bash script with the following components:

(1) Update the data from the NYT repo:

cd /Users/johnlaudun/Developer/covid-19-data
git pull

(2) Update the graph of cases and the table of deaths:

cd /Users/johnlaudun/Developer/COVID-Acadiana
python covid.py

(3) Build the site with the new markdown, html, and image(s):

mkdocs build

(4) Deploy the site/ directory to the web server:

cd ~
rsync -r ./Developer/COVID-Acadiana/site/ \

It’s nothing fancy, but it works and it’s a start. My goal is to increase the information density of the page whenever I have the chance.

UPDATE (July 22): I have collected a couple of notes about creating COVID dashboards and I am pasting them here for anyone interested in setting up their own (and I may very well re-write mine).