HARDIN COUNTY, Iowa — After months of the public and press requesting for zip code-specific coronavirus data, some local county public health department leaders have begun releasing the information on their social media pages.
On Monday, Hardin County Public Health officials posted the total number of COVID-19 cases by zip code in the county since the pandemic began.
Data by zip code has been available to county public health officials for months, according to Abigail Chihak, community health administrator for the Dallas County Health Department.
Dallas County has decided not to release coronavirus data by zip code because it would reveal information about the positive individual and violate the law, according to Chihak. She said if the number of positive cases in a particular zip code is below 10, it would be easy to identify who the positive test results came from.
That reasoning is consistent with guidance provided to each public health department from the state.
Amy McCoy, spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), said in an email to Local 5 that, "we ask them to follow certain measures to protect the privacy of Iowans when they release this de-identified information."
Below are the parameters for releasing that information, according to McCoy:
Case counts can be released by state or local public health by zip codes if 100 or more people reside in the zip code under the following circumstances
- Zeros can be released
- Counts of 6 or greater can be released
- Counts of 1 through 5 should be suppressed and identified only as having between 1 and 5 cases (no individual count given).
- No other demographic identifiers are included in the zip-code level release
"We hope this will be a helpful tool for public health," McCoy said.
Grundy County Public Health also posted about the zip code data, saying state public health officials began going through the information alphabetically by county.
"We received our information to access the site last Friday, but have had technical difficulties setting it up," the health department wrote. "We are working with the state on it and hope to have it up SOON!!! We are excited to see the data this can provide our schools, childcare centers, long-term care/assisted living facilities, businesses, clinics, etc."
It is up to each county if they want to publish the zip code data. An internal dashboard displays the information, which is only accessible to local public health officials or the state.
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