Minnesota School Re-Opening Status showing the current score for all counties

Minnesota Schools Re-Opening Status

When schooled “ended” in June my hope was we would have some answers and direction to safely put our kids back into school come fall. Yet, here we are in August with little answers and no clear direction for Minnesota Schools Re-Opening. Last week Governor Walz provided his guidance for schools but after summarizing it for many people, they were left with more questions than answers so this post is created to help inform and guide parents (and school districts) about their current community position for re-opening schools.

What was included in Walz’s guidance last week?

The biggest thing last week was announcing two new ways to look at Covid cases in the state. Until now, the state has released two numbers by county since March: new cases and aggregate cases. I’ve been very critical of these metrics because we are in month 4 of this pandemic and I believe sharing the largest numbers possible only scare people. Yes, as of this post we’ve seen over 56,000 new cases in the state of Minnesota but the reality is, less than 7,000 have been in the last 2 weeks. Minnesota is doing quite well with this pandemic and that goes across the state. Sure some counties are doing MUCH better than others but how can we tell? Well, the two metrics announced last week can help us measure that. What were they?

1 – New Cases in the last 14 days by county

Finally. We’re starting to look at the most recent cases. This only took 4 months. Why is this important? Because this shows how many people might be contagious in your area. According to the CDC, “Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus” and now we’re focused on counting these people.

2 – New Cases per 10,000 people per county

Another great shift. Now we’re taking into account the county size. Sure Hennepin county has the most cases but it also has the most people. If we look at cases per 10K people there are actually 11 other counties with a higher infection rate per capita. Who’s #1? Nobles county with 1,700+ cases with a population of 21,000 people.

Minnesota Schools Re-Opening Recommendation

The recommendation looks at both of the metrics above – New Cases last 14 days per 10,000 people. Wow, that’s a mouthful. Now, based on that number for each county, the governor provided the following Minnesota Schools Re-Opening Recommendation based on where they sit:

0-9In-person learning for all students
10-19In-person learning for elementary students;
hybrid learning for secondary students
20-29Hybrid learning for all students
30-49Hybrid learning for elementary students;
distance learning for secondary students
50+Distance learning for all students

At this point during the presentation I was thinking, nice, so the more infected the county will determine how my district moves forward. Great. Well, what’s my score? I tried explaining this to my wife and she too was confused. So… I set out to fix that.

Your County’s Current Re-Opening Status Score

I knew the state had this data but its something they’ve never shared so I set out to create it so parents and school districts had the right information to make a decision. Below is map that shows all counties in the state and their current 14-day score for re-opening. As you click on the county (or select it in the dropdown) the numbers get updated so you can view the last 2 weeks of data for your county. I added a couple other features like the ability to view up to the last 10 weeks and a State summary as to what percentage of the population falls in the recommended 5 categories.

The interactive map for Minnesota Schools Re-Opening by county is below but you can also access it here via Public Tableau.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Does this chart represent how my school district will be re-opening schools?
A: NO. This is the guidance from Governor Walz based on his Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 school year. It is up to the school districts to evaluate the spread in their area along with other community factors (such as facilities) to do what they feel is right for their school district. One example he gave was, if you are a school district with newer facilities and have an advanced air filtration system, you may feel more comfortable re-opening at a higher number.

Q: Did the state provide this information to my school district?
A: No. Based on how the Minnesota Department of Health collects this data, they wait 7 days to confirm the data. In addition to that, it looks like they compile the data weekly. The document provided after the announcement was dated 7/30 but only had data through 7/18. Yes, the data they provided was 12 days old when looking at the last 14 days.

Q: Can we look at age, race or hospitalizations at the county level?
A: No. Since the beginning the state has only released case counts and deaths at the county level. I agree having this level of information would help schools and parents make decisions. We know there has been hotspots in places of employment and living spaces. These are often pockets of specific demographics that could make the county numbers look worse than they are when evaluating schools.

Q: Why did you create this?
A: Because the state has this information at the county level through yesterday but they are not supplying it. I believe schools and parents need the latest information available to make an informed decision about their children. These new metrics are confusing and some parents might feel uninformed or uneasy on their local situation but the reality is 20% of the population (at the time of this post) fall in the 100% in-person schooling for their kids. The state did a good job moving to these new metrics but they did not provide any historical context about these new numbers.

Q: Can I see the data for my city?
A: No. The state does not provide case counts by city. As a person who lives in Carver County but sends my kids to Hennepin county, I wish they did, but no, not yet.

Q: How often will this get updated?
A: I will try to update this daily so people have latest information about Minnesota Schools Re-Opening.

Q: What is the source of your data?
A: I am connected directly to county reporting provided by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

Q: Could you create a different view?
A: Yes, if you would like a different view, please let me know and I will do my best to create it for you. Feel free to Get in Touch with me or leave a comment below.

Conclusion

I hope this help give parents and educators more information and better access to the latest information available to help make more informed decisions about schools this fall. If you have comments or suggestions, please feel free to Get in Touch or leave a comment below.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post.

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