Data Is Plural

... is a weekly newsletter of useful/curious datasets.

2020.12.09 edition

Hospital capacity, travel restrictions, the World Factbook, La Pola and her compatriots, and Bob Ross paintings.

COVID-19 hospital capacity. On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services released a dataset on coronavirus-related capacity at thousands of US hospitals — information the agency previously only published as state-level metrics. The self-reported, weekly-updated dataset quantifies various aspects of capacity, such as the number of staffed ICU beds and the number of beds occupied by patients with COVID-19. “This data is tremendously complex and is the result of substantial ongoing efforts,” notes an accompanying blog post. “We opted not to have perfect be the enemy of good, so these datasets will have imperfections.” Related: An FAQ “developed in collaboration with a group of data journalists, data scientists, and healthcare system researchers who have reviewed the data.” [h/t Ryan Panchadsaram]

Pandemic travel restrictions. The UN World Food Program has been tracking countries’ and airlines’ travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, based on official communications, media reports, and other sources. The country-level dataset indicates whether travelers must obtain a recent negative test and what type of quarantine or self-isolation is required. [h/t Cassidy Chansirik]

Country facts. The CIA’s World Factbook “provides information on the history, people and society, government, economy, energy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities.” The details are extensive and fairly standardized. Open data–enthusiast Gerald Bauer has converted the publication into a series of JSON files. Now you know: The physical areas of five countries (Georgia, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Sri Lanka) are all described as “slightly larger than West Virginia.”

La Pola and her compatriots. During Colombia’s struggle for independence, Royalists executed scores of women by shooting squad, the most famous of whom was the seamstress and spy known as “La Pola.” Writing last year for the cultural journal of Colombia’s central bank, historian Pablo Rodríguez Jiménez presented a list of 76 women known to have suffered this fate — their names, locations, and dates of death. Colombia-based Datasketch has converted that list into a spreadsheet. [h/t Juan Pablo Marín Díaz]

Bob Ross paintings. Data scientist Jared Wilber has built a dataset of all paintings in Bob Ross’s 31 seasons of “The Joy of Painting,” scraped from the searchable database at For each painting, the dataset lists the title, season, episode, YouTube link, and list of colors used. For a 2014 article at FiveThirtyEight, Walt Hickey created a dataset categorizing the types of things Ross depicted in each episode. Related: “Where Are All the Bob Ross Paintings? We Found Them,” a video from the New York Times. [h/t u/palpitations]