Minneapolis to launch online coronavirus dashboard

Information will not include demographic, neighborhood breakdown

Mayor Jacob Frey speaks to the City Council on April 10 during a remote meeting in which he shared that there were 131 positive coronavirus cases in Minneapolis. The city will be releasing an online dashboard this week giving daily updates on the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths related to the virus.

The city of Minneapolis will begin posting daily updates this week on how many residents have tested positive for the coronavirus and the number of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, officials said.

Minneapolis has been receiving daily updates on coronavirus cases and related hospitalizations and deaths from the Minnesota Department of Health and plans to start sharing those updates online with the public by April 17, according to Luisa Pessoa-Brendao, manager of the city’s epidemiology and research team.

Mayor Jacob Frey has updated the City Council twice in April with the number of confirmed cases at the body’s weekly meeting. As of April 10, there were 131 positive coronavirus cases in Minneapolis. No hospitalization or death figures have been shared in those updates.

As of April 14, the state of Minnesota has recorded 1,695 positive cases of the coronavirus, 588 of which have been in Hennepin County.

“The bottom line is our city and our state are outperforming others,” Mayor Jacob Frey told the City Council on April 10, adding that social distancing must continue.

Council President Lisa Bender (Ward 10) and others asked for more specific data on racial demographics of cases. Nationwide, COVID-19 has caused disproportionately high death rates among African Americans in cities like Milwaukee, Chicago and New Orleans.

“I think it makes complete sense — we should be tracking based on demographics and race,” Frey responded.

The city will start with more basic aggregate data on the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Pessoa-Brendao said. Right now, she said there are not enough cases for the department to release demographic data without making people identifiable. The Minneapolis Health Department is waiting for there to be at least five cases among each racial group tracked before putting out race-specific data; publishing simply white and nonwhite cases wouldn’t be helpful, she said.

If case numbers rise to the point the city’s health department believes it can release more demographic breakdowns of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, it will, Pessoa-Brendao said. But that would mean having many more cases in general.

“It’s sort of this weird dichotomy of wanting more data and not wanting more data,” Pessoa-Brendao said.

The data the city is receiving from the state is not broken down by neighborhood or address, she said. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) just asks people their city of residence.

The Minneapolis Health Department plans to update its figures daily shortly after the state, which releases new numbers around 11 a.m. each morning.

The city has been receiving updates on Minneapolis cases, hospitalizations and deaths from MDH since at least April 3, according to city documents. Frey and city spokespersons have deflected questions about why these numbers have not been made public on a regular basis sooner.

“As the cases accumulate, it becomes less of an issue for privacy, which was a reason originally why we didn’t have access to the Minneapolis-specific data,” Minneapolis Health Commissioner Gretchen Musicant told members of the City Council on April 10.

The state has been releasing information detailing cases at the county level. An MDH spokesperson said the state leaves it up to local public health departments whether to share city-level data with their residents.