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The site for Huoshensan Hospital in Wuhan China in 2017 (left). The hospital built in 2020 (right). Photos: ©2020 Maxar Technologies

Miles above Earth, the global effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic can be seen unfolding at a rapid and dramatic scale.

Why it matters: Tracking the effects of the virus from space can help organizations understand the pandemic without sending people into harm's way, and it can promote transparency and accountability around efforts to combat the virus.

What's happening: Planet — a company that operates more than 100 Earth-imaging satellites — has been snapping before and after photos of airports, bridges and other locations to show how social distancing efforts have cleared roads and tourist destinations around the world.

  • Another satellite operator, Maxar, has been tracking the construction of new hospitals and medical facilities as cities try to treat an influx of patients.
  • Companies are also reporting an uptick in demand for satellite imagery showing manufacturing and infrastructure in particularly hard-hit parts of the world like China, according to a report from Space News.
Miami Beach in 2019 (left). An empty Miami Beach in 2020. Photos: Planet Labs Inc.

The big picture: Satellite images also provide a sense of scope that can't be seen from the ground.

  • A striking timelapse shows pollution clearing over China as the country enacted strict measures to slow the progression of the coronavirus crisis. (Similar photos also show pollution clearing above Italy.)
  • Satellite images also show large pits being dug in Iran to bury the victims of the coronavirus outbreak in that country.

Background: Satellite data has long been used to aid in disaster relief.

  • Images taken from space can also be used to track deforestation and wildfires.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Between the lines: Satellite images not only show the scope of the coronavirus crisis, but also help to hold nations and companies accountable for their actions as people on the ground work to combat the pandemic.

  • "Space enables a higher degree of transparency," Dylan Taylor, the CEO of Voyager Space Holdings told Axios. "It's hard to hide from space-based assets."

What's next: It's possible remote sensing data will also be used to aid in economic recovery.

  • The bird's eye view a satellite provides could help companies track the effects of the outbreak without putting employees at risk on the ground.
  • Satellite data might also be able to help warn about future epidemics by keeping an eye on areas that have the potential for outbreaks to know when the risk is high for certain diseases to start spreading.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
4 mins ago - Economy & Business

The winners and losers of AT&T's split with WarnerMedia

Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

AT&T is unwinding a huge part of its $84 billion acquisition of Time Warner, less than three years after it closed.

Driving the news: AT&T this morning announced that it will merge its WarnerMedia properties with Discovery Inc.'s media assets.

Supreme Court agrees to hear major Mississippi abortion case

Photo: Erin Scott/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

Why it matters: It will be the first abortion case to be argued before the Supreme Court since Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed, potentially providing a pathway to challenging Roe v. Wade and allowing outright bans on abortion.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

1 hour ago - World

Blinken says he hasn't seen evidence Hamas was in AP building Israel struck

Smoke rises after sraeli forces destroyed building in Gaza City where Al-Jazeera and Associated Press had their offices. Photo: Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday he had not personally seen evidence that Hamas was operating in a building that housed offices for Al Jazeera, the AP and other media in the Gaza Strip, as the Israeli government has claimed, AP reports.

The latest: "The Secretary was referring only to what he personally had seen. As he made clear, any such information would be provided to others in the administration, not directly to the secretary of State," a senior State Department official told Axios.