Teacher’s homemade COVID news-tracker goes viral

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A Kansas school teacher’s passion project has become a national database, cataloging coronavirus-related events including school closings, cases and deaths.

Alisha Morris was overwhelmed by the information she found online when she attempted to get some answers about how other school districts were dealing with the issue of re-opening during the pandemic.

“I was seeing a lot of articles about schools that were opening up and issues already happening on Day 1,” Morris told My Central Jersey. “I thought, Wow! Maybe these are a lot of repeat articles and I’m just seeing the same thing over and over.”

“Surely, there can’t be that many already. As I was researching, I thought, oh my gosh, this is happening all over.”

Morris, a drama teacher, collected the information in a spreadsheet that she shared with her colleagues and eventually the district’s board of education.

She received an “astronomical” response and decided to make the chart available online.

Alisha Morris
Alisha Morris
Facebook

The spreadsheet now contains over 600 entries from more than 40 states. Her work has been shared on various Facebook pages for educators and education groups, with every story corroborated by a link to a story from a reputable news outlet.

She opened up the database for suggestions from readers, leading to an influx of submissions to bolster her information. She has spent 12 hours a day over the last few days adding to the database.

“It sort of went viral in the last couple of days,” Morris said. “That was never my intent, but I did want people to have access to the information because I couldn’t find a compilation anywhere.”

“It’s shocking to me that nobody else was trying to do a nationwide track.”

Morris plans to transition to a new system, soon, with help from volunteers to move away from her basic spreadsheet format to a more formal system.

“Local news is so important because the big news sites aren’t covering stuff like this. The local news sites are where I could find the really good, accurate information about the districts.”

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