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Students launch web app to provide local news on COVID-19

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To help keep California residents updated on local COVID-19 cases, fatalities and news stories, a team of five students from Stanford; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Southern California developed Close, a web app that organizes information about COVID-19 cases in California by county.

Launched last week, the site has already had more than 1,500 users, a figure growing at a daily rate of 25% according to one of the founders, Sam Gorman ’21. The goal of Close is to provide local updates on COVID-19.

“There’s so much national news and international news that bombard us with content every day,” Gorman said. “But there’s a gap between that and the amount of local news and information nearby, and what we wanted to do is essentially fill that gap.”

Kanyes Thaker, a junior at Berkeley who is another of Close’s founders, highlighted a need for people to understand changes that COVID-19 is causing at the local level.

“After talking to friends and family in my community, I realized that a lot of people get the sense about how coronavirus is spreading from national and international news outlets,” Thaker said. “I think one thing that happens is that people don’t really realize the health-related and socioeconomic impacts of the disease in their own communities.”

Close displays an interactive map of California and divides the state into counties, as well as top headlines of local news outlets in each county.

“There’s so much happening in my local community that relates to schools, hospitals, etc. that isn’t covered by national news outlets, and it’s all information that is important for locals,” Thaker said.

Other features of the website include numbers that show the numbers of cases and deaths per county, as well as the daily increase in each.

“Close lets me quickly check for news and stats related to COVID-19 from my local county in California,” said Derrick Li ’21, an early user of the tool. “Moreover, the number of coronavirus cases on a county level is displayed on a map, which makes it easy to tell which regions of California are being heavily affected … I’d recommend anyone who has friends or family in California to give Close a try and to check it often.”

The data from the website comes from a variety of sources, including counties, news outlets and universities such as Johns Hopkins.

Gorman hopes that Close will be able to help people all across the state.

“We designed Close to be accessible by anyone, whether they be 65+ or college students,” he said. “There is a lot of potential here to help people stay informed and make the right decisions to stay safe during these times.”

Contact Camryn Pak at cpak23 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Camryn Pak '23 is a desk editor for news. She is majoring in American Studies with a focus on Inequality, Media and the Law. Contact her at cpak23 'at' stanford.edu.