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The Pandemic Atlas: AP’s comprehensive global look at how the virus upended 2020

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In the year since COVID-19 surfaced, journalists for The Associated Press have produced an impressive array of stories documenting its grim march around the world. Conveying the extent of disruption and death wrought by the virus in 2020 warranted a marshaling of AP’s global resources, expertise and storytelling for a one-of-a-kind project: the Pandemic Atlas.

Profiles of 13 countries were included,marrying statistics on the number of infections and deaths with details that explained how each country was weathering the pandemic. The compendium became a clear and concise all-formats effort revealing how various nations grappled with the coronavirus, from Peru, where decades of underinvestment in public health led to mass infections to Japan, which has been spared the dangerous surges seen in the United States and Europe.

The package included six video stories from China, India, Italy, Spain, Brazil and New York,each character-driven and exclusive. Fresh photos were shot for the project,and some of the best images from each country were included. Each was laid on APNews so that the elements — graphics,photos, text and video — complemented each other.

In Italy, AP photographers revisited 16 medics whose portraits they shot in March,this time opting to shoot them in regular clothes as opposed to their hospital uniforms. The images were taken from similar angles so that the images provided an updated look at practitioners who had borne the brunt of the virus’ surge in Italy. Reproducing the portraits proved to be a difficult task for Domenico Stinellis,Antonio Calanni and Luca Bruno, who had to track down and coax some of the medics for the second shoots. Three of those medics told their stories on camera, and this video story was part of the Atlas project.

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After a strict nationwide lockdown, Agustina Cañamero, 81, and Pascual Pérez, 84, hug and kiss through a sheet of plastic to avoid contracting the new coronavirus at a nursing home in Barcelona, Spain, June 22, 2020. As the couple broke into tears, Cañamero said that the couple had never spent such long time without physical contact in 59 years of marriage. – AP Photo / Emilio Morenatti

The combined global efforts resulted in a visually striking package that told stories in fresh ways and met customers’ needs. Text stories were all translated into Spanish, while the videos received Arabic and Spanish edits. The atlas is more than a one-day story: A social promotion campaign continues,with posts highlighting the project planned for the rest of the year. Each day,the project auto-updates the number of infections and deaths in each featured country.

The atlas was among the most-engaged AP stories last week, and AP’s video footage has received hours of airtime so far.

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A blanket is pulled over the body of a patient after medical personnel were unable to to save her life in the COVID-19 unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, July 16, 2020. – AP Photo / David J. Phillip

None of this would have been possible without the dogged and authoritative work of AP’s field journalists around the world. Crucial to the project’s success were the months of planning and the stewardship of Europe/Africa News Director Anna Johnson and many others. The powerful digital presentation was overseen by global news and enterprise editor Raghu Vadarevu,video content was shepherded by executive producer Tanja Popovic and deputy international photo director Tony Hicks ensured the photos were compelling, while editors Kristin Gazlay and Jerry Schwartz worked closely with more than a dozen writers to bring the text stories to life.

“Thanks for your professionalism.”

Gabriele Tomasoni,ICU head surgeon,hospital Spedali Civili di Brescia, Italy

For an outstanding display of planning,teamwork,ingenuity,storytelling and presentation on the story that shaped 2020, the Pandemic Atlas — and the scores of AP journalists around the world who made it possible — are recognized with AP’s Best of the Week award.

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As the German government announced new public restrictions to help avoid the spread of the coronavirus, a hotel lights rooms to form a heart in Frankfurt, Germany, March 22, 2020. – AP Photo / Michael Probst
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