IDPH okays release of zip code-level data on SARS-CoV-2 cases

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The Dallas County Department of Public Health released zip code-level data on positive cases of SARS-CoV-2 Friday.

After four months of delay, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) gave the go ahead this week to the Dallas County Department of Public Health to release zip-code-level data on SARS-CoV-2 cases in Dallas County.

Back in May, when nearly 60% of workers at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Perry tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, city officials from Perry requested zip code-level data on positive cases, but the request was denied by the IDPH.

This week, in a reversal of the May policy, the state and county public health authorities released zip code-specific data to the city of Waukee. Like Perry, Waukee previously requested the granular data but was denied.

“Up until today, we’ve had to make community decisions related to COVID-19 based on countywide information,” said Waukee Mayor Courtney Clarke. “Now that these Waukee-specific numbers are being made available, we will be able to make more exact data-driven decisions as to how to protect community members from contracting COVID-19.”

Clarke said her office has requested the historical zip code-specific data for Waukee in order to review trends with county and state health officials.

“It is our hope that with this analysis, we can set a data-driven target for future mask mandate proclamations,” Clarke said.

Perry City Administrator Sven Peterson similarly said zip code-level case numbers will help the city in planning its response operations and policies.

“Until the state releases information based on a smaller geographical region, we have to operate on the assumption that a majority of the cases are in Perry,” he said. “It would be the same for all communities if you’re playing the safe side of things.”

“The IDPH and Iowa Department of Education are working hard to be responsive to our local partners,” said Amy McCoy, IDPH COVID-19 media relations coordinator. “Schools and local public health are engaging in information sharing in a manner like never before, and we want to provide them with tools to assist them in these processes. We will continue to develop materials where we can be helpful to our local partners.”

Ann Cochran, health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Department of Public Health, said her department received state guidance Wednesday, directing the county how best to release the data, which appeared Friday on the Dallas County website.

Cochran said the shared data will be in compliance with the following guidelines:

  • Data will only be released in zip codes with populations of 100 or greater.
  • Zip codes with five or less cases will be suppressed.
  • No other demographic identifiers will be included.

The 14-day case counts will be regularly added and time stamped during normal weekday business hours.

“We use the 14-day time range because confirmed cases are considered to be infectious for 10 days, but cases are not typically reported for 48-72 hours,” Cochran said. She said the 14-day total provides a relatively stable snapshot of possibly infectious persons for municipal planning purposes.

The zip code data only includes positive test results, and only Dallas County residents are represented in the zip codes that cross county borders.

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