One-man job: data-tracking the pandemic in Butte County


Kimberly Morales

Christian Hammond solely operates the BC19. Live dashboard which tracks COVID-19 data pertaining to Butte County. Photo by Kim Morales.

In the wake of the pandemic, one man brought it upon himself to regularly aggregate COVID-19 data to paint a more complete picture of how infection was spreading across Butte County.

More than a year after COVID-19 hit California, Christian Hammond, software developer and CEO at Beanbag, continues to track and report on the movement of the pandemic through his solely-operated website, BC19.Live, and through Twitter and Facebook.

However, despite having a deep family history in Chico, Hammond has been putting in the work all the way from Palo Alto. When data first became available in the Bay Area, Hammond checked daily.

“But there wasn’t something like that for Butte County,” Hammond said. “At the time there were no graphs on it, just numbers that have changed each day, so I couldn’t get a sense of if it was accelerating or not.”

What Hammond started as a one-page, hand-typed spreadsheet reference for his family and friends transformed into a full-blown, unofficial dashboard for Butte County after one weekend.

The dashboard reports total cases, hospitalizations, confirmed deaths and more while matching the data to up to the last 30 days.

As of Oct. 13, Butte County sits with 19,797 total cases, 66 hospitalizations and 258 confirmed deaths.

“I thought I was just going to be able to let that run on autopilot and walk away,” Hammond said. “But then I realized that, for people to better understand what they’re seeing, they would need a little bit of guidance — so that’s when the report started.”

Hammond’s work has received mostly positive feedback from viewers, even earning him “Best Volunteer” by the Chico News and Review. But not all of the feedback has been optimistic.

“I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me and say, ‘You’re spreading misinformation by saying that there’s a horrible pandemic going on when that’s not even true. You’re trying to scare people to go and collect money from them,’” Hammond said. “People would see the ad and they would freak out about it.”

The dashboard also reports on COVID-19 vaccinations, viral testing and categorizing cases among schools and the Butte County Jail.

In Butte County, 44.8% of eligible residents have been fully vaccinated, falling behind the statewide average of 61.1%.

“It’s been kind of sad to report most days when, you know, three people died and knowing that that was preventable,” Hammond said. “The numbers have been very clear that the county has consistently been one of the worst in the state and it’s just purely based on people’s chosen attitudes when it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Hammond’s dashboard continues to update regularly throughout the week as more information becomes available.

“[Chico and the Bay Area] are both my homes and I want to see them both be safe,” Hammond said.

Christian Hammond is a software developer, with roots in Chico but based in the Bay Area. Photo by Kim Morales.

Kimberly Morales can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @kimberlymnews.