Interactions to over 1.5 million articles about coronavirus reached 500 million in just a week during February, according to a new report from NewsWhip, “Coverage of the Coronavirus on Web and Social.” The report tracks the spread of coronavirus coverage online, which publishers have driven conversation around the issue and how brands are keeping an open line of communication with their customers.

In early January, the first English media mention of the virus came from a disease tracking website called FluTrackers, capturing the attention of other publishers. During that week, fourteen articles on the topic were published, with around 1,500 engagements. 

Coverage picked up in the mainstream press, including The New York Times and NBC, in the second week of January, resulting in 90,000 engagements on around 1,300 articles.

Engagement reached a tipping point in week three of January when 3,500 articles were published, with engagements per article increasing from 70 to 350, resulting in over a million engagements that week. Accounting for over half of the 1.2 million engagements was a story from BBC News confirming cases had tripled through infection. The story received 767,000 engagements.

Interaction to coronavirus web coverage increased from 36,701,100 engagements in the fourth week of January to 58,519,451 engagements in the fifth week.

Brands have prioritized communication with their customers during the pandemic, with many brands like Google and Walmart quickly releasing statements on their preparation and response for coronavirus while others announced updates to their policy to allow paid employee sick leave. 

The most engaged articles about coronavirus from brands include one from Microsoft (119, 512 engagements) about protecting its employees’ health and income of hourly workers, one from Walmart’s corporate site on how it’s responding to the virus (22,023 engagements) and one from Johnson & Johnson on what consumers need to know about the virus (14,060 engagements).

The most engaged websites for coronavirus content include NBC and its local affiliates (over 41 million engagements) and CNN (20 million engagements).

Engagements to political stories about the virus ranged from 767,000 to 2.1 million.

Highly engaged stories about the science of coronavirus included those from The Washington Post and Vox, focusing on the scientific basis of social distancing to decrease the rate at which people get infected and the importance of washing hands. The Post’s story about flattening the coronavirus curve received 4.3 million engagements and Vox’s article about canceled events and self-quarantine’s ability to save lives received 2.5 million.

Articles explaining why canceled events are crucial in helping prevent the spread of infection were some of the most engaged stories written, including Vox’s mentioned above, one from Bloomberg about the coronavirus conference cancellation (1.9 million engagements) and one from ESPN on the NBA suspending its season (1.5 million engagements).