How coronavirus charts can mislead us

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How to read a popular chart of coronavirus cases by country.

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Much of the data about the coronavirus epidemic and covid-19 is flawed. It is collected and reported in different ways by different countries, and almost certainly undercounts the number of cases and deaths. But organizations and journalists still need to report the available data to inform the public and help guide policymakers. Much of that data ends up in visualizations, like charts and maps, which can make it easier to understand and analyze.

But it’s important to know how the process of data visualization can shape our perception of the crisis. In this video, we deconstruct one particularly popular chart of covid-19 cases around the world which uses a logarithmic scale, and explain how to avoid being misled by it.

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