Tracking Covid19 Cases Throughout NJ with R

[This article was first published on Kevin Zolea on Kevin Zolea, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers]. (You can report issue about the content on this page here)
Want to share your content on R-bloggers? click here if you have a blog, or here if you don't.


With all this Covid19 madness going on in the world, I felt inspired to utilize the vast amount of data we have from it. I came across a dataset by the The NY Times. From reading over the GitHub repository, they obtain this time series data from state and local governments and health departments. To get a better sense of the data please go to the link above! The objective of what I am trying to accomplish is to create an animated time series map showing how Covid19 spread throughout NJ.

Read in the data

To read in the data I will use the readr package.

library(readr) #loads package

covid19_data<-read_csv("us_counties.csv") #function that reads in csv files

Now that the data is read in.. lets check the structure of the data

## Classes 'spec_tbl_df', 'tbl_df', 'tbl' and 'data.frame': 38197 obs. of  6 variables:
##  $ date  : Date, format: "2020-01-21" "2020-01-22" ...
##  $ county: chr  "Snohomish" "Snohomish" "Snohomish" "Cook" ...
##  $ state : chr  "Washington" "Washington" "Washington" "Illinois" ...
##  $ fips  : chr  "53061" "53061" "53061" "17031" ...
##  $ cases : num  1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 ...
##  $ deaths: num  0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ...
##  - attr(*, "spec")=
##   .. cols(
##   ..   date = col_date(format = ""),
##   ..   county = col_character(),
##   ..   state = col_character(),
##   ..   fips = col_character(),
##   ..   cases = col_double(),
##   ..   deaths = col_double()
##   .. )

Everything seems to look correct. All the columns seem to have the right structure!

Filter data

Being that we only want to see how covid19 spread in NJ, we will filter the data frame to only show cases in NJ. This can be done with the dplyr package. The data also has a great deal of cases that are “Unknown”. By reading over the documentation of the data, it says many state health departments chose to report cases separately when the patient’s county of residence is unknown or pending determination. I will take this data out since we wouldn’t be able to link it to a specific county.

library(dplyr) # used for data wrangling

  dplyr::filter(state == "New Jersey",county != "Unknown") #filters data frame

head(NJ_covid19) # Returns the first or last parts of the data frame 
## # A tibble: 6 x 6
##   date       county state      fips  cases deaths
##   <date>     <chr>  <chr>      <chr> <dbl>  <dbl>
## 1 2020-03-04 Bergen New Jersey 34003     1      0
## 2 2020-03-05 Bergen New Jersey 34003     2      0
## 3 2020-03-06 Bergen New Jersey 34003     3      0
## 4 2020-03-06 Camden New Jersey 34007     1      0
## 5 2020-03-07 Bergen New Jersey 34003     3      0
## 6 2020-03-07 Camden New Jersey 34007     1      0

Obtain county shapefile

Since the data frame doesn’t have any “shapes”, I have to download a shapefile with NJ’s counties to join to the NJ_covid19 data frame. Luckily, the New Jersey Office of GIS has a great website to download hundreds of spatial datasets across the state. By going to this website, I can download the county shapefile.

Read in county shapefile

I can read in the NJ county shapefile by using the sf package. The sf package is a great package to analyze spatial data.


NJ_counties<-st_read(getwd(),"New_Jersey_Counties") #function to read in shapefile
## Reading layer `New_Jersey_Counties' from data source `/Users/kevinzolea/Desktop/Personal_Website/content/post/covid19_nj' using driver `ESRI Shapefile'
## Simple feature collection with 21 features and 22 fields
## geometry type:  MULTIPOLYGON
## dimension:      XY
## bbox:           xmin: 193684.7 ymin: 34945.75 xmax: 657059.7 ymax: 919549.4
## epsg (SRID):    3424
## proj4string:    +proj=tmerc +lat_0=38.83333333333334 +lon_0=-74.5 +k=0.9999 +x_0=150000 +y_0=0 +datum=NAD83 +units=us-ft +no_defs

As you can see above, the shapefile got read into R. Now let’s plot it to make sure everythings okay.


Join shapefile to data frame

In order to make a map with the original data, I have to join the shapefile, NJ_counties, with the NJ_covid19 data frame. This can be done by using the left_join() function from the dplyr package. The join will be based on the common column shared by both datasets, which would be the county column. First, I need to make the county column header in the NJ_counties dataset lowercase. This is so I can match the county columns from both datasets. Next, I have to make all the counties in the county column lowercase in both datasets, so they can match. See below.

names(NJ_counties)<-tolower(names(NJ_counties)) # Makes county column header lowercase

NJ_counties$county<-tolower(NJ_counties$county)#Makes all rows in the county column lowercase

NJ_covid19$county<-tolower(NJ_covid19$county)#Makes all rows in the county column lowercase

Now I can join the two datasets based on the county column in both.

  dplyr::select(date,county,state,cases,deaths,geometry)#selects only the columns of interest

## # A tibble: 6 x 6
##   date       county state   cases deaths                           geometry
##   <date>     <chr>  <chr>   <dbl>  <dbl>    <MULTIPOLYGON [US_survey_foot]>
## 1 2020-03-04 bergen New Je…     1      0 (((656201 783614.4, 656141.1 7834…
## 2 2020-03-05 bergen New Je…     2      0 (((656201 783614.4, 656141.1 7834…
## 3 2020-03-06 bergen New Je…     3      0 (((656201 783614.4, 656141.1 7834…
## 4 2020-03-06 camden New Je…     1      0 (((342764 423475.8, 342804.1 4234…
## 5 2020-03-07 bergen New Je…     3      0 (((656201 783614.4, 656141.1 7834…
## 6 2020-03-07 camden New Je…     1      0 (((342764 423475.8, 342804.1 4234…

Make map with ggplot2 and gganimate

All the data manipulation part is done, now I can start building the actual map. I will be using the ggplot2 package in conjuction with the gganimate package to create the final animated time series map showing how covid19 spread throughout NJ’s counties.

library(ggplot2) #Used for plotting
library(gganimate) #Used for animations
library(RColorBrewer) #Used for color scale 

# Used to make new data frame an sf object
# Must use st_as_sf in order to use geom_sf() to plot polygons
# Makes plot with ggplot2 and gganimate to animate through the days 
  geom_sf(data = NJ_counties,fill = "white")+
  geom_sf(data = NJ_covid19_shapes,aes(fill=cases))+
  ggtitle("Spread of Covid19 Throughout New Jersey")+
  labs(subtitle = "Date: {current_frame}",
       caption = "Date Source: The New York Times\nAuthor: Kevin Zolea")+
  cowplot::background_grid(major = "none", minor = "none") +
  theme(axis.text.x = element_blank(), axis.ticks.x = element_blank(),
        axis.text.y = element_blank(), axis.ticks.y = element_blank(),
        axis.line = element_blank(),
        legend.background = element_blank(),
        plot.background = element_blank(),
        panel.background = element_blank(),
        legend.text = element_text(size=12),
        legend.title = element_text(colour="black", size=12, face="bold"),
        plot.title=element_text(size=20, face="bold",hjust =0.5),
        plot.subtitle = element_text(hjust = 0.5,size=12),
        plot.caption = element_text(size = 11,
                                    hjust = .5,
                                    color = "black",
                                    face = "bold"))+
  scale_fill_distiller("Number of Positive Cases",
                       palette ="Reds",type = "div",
                       direction = 1)+

  animate(covid_map, nframe=27,fps = 2, end_pause = 15,height = 500, width =500)

Things to note about above code

Being that I joined a non-spatial data set with a spatial data set, I had to use st_as_sf() to make sure the geom_sf() function was able to plot an sf object. I had to use transition_manual() to make the animation. This is because when I tried to use transition_time() it made the polygons on the map move all over the place. The animate function allows you to change how fast the animation is, how many frames to use, height, width, etc. To learn more about the gganimate package and the ggplot2 package, you can go to the following websites to get a better understanding.


As you can see, the vast majority of positive cases can be seen in the northern parts of NJ. This is what can be expected due to the fact that the population is greater and its in close proximity to NY, which is the hardest hit state in the US.

To leave a comment for the author, please follow the link and comment on their blog: Kevin Zolea on Kevin Zolea. offers daily e-mail updates about R news and tutorials about learning R and many other topics. Click here if you're looking to post or find an R/data-science job.
Want to share your content on R-bloggers? click here if you have a blog, or here if you don't.

Never miss an update!
Subscribe to R-bloggers to receive
e-mails with the latest R posts.
(You will not see this message again.)

Click here to close (This popup will not appear again)