Should Schools Across the US Re-Open? Applying Minnesota’s Guidance to the Entire US

When I created my post looking at Minnesota Schools Re-Opening Status I never thought it would take off the way that it did. It’s very rewarding to see people and school districts still using that current visualization to help inform if kids should go back to school. Since that post, I’ve had several people and school districts reach out and ask, can I apply the same logic across the US? Why yes, yes I can.

A Background on Minnesota’s Guidance

When Governor Walz provided guidance for schools re-opening he introduced two new ways to look at Covid-19 cases:

  1. New Cases in the last 14 days by county
  2. New Cases per 10,000 people per county

To me, this is a smart way to look at case counts because it takes into account recently confirmed cases (not total cases since March) and infections per capita. These two metrics give a good sense of the infection rate over the last 2-weeks. It’s not as sophisticated as the Rt rate, but it’s an improvement since all we were looking at was new and total cases.

Governor Walz combined these two metrics to essentially give a score at the county level and your score determined your recommended re-opening level. The scores and re-opening levels are:

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

Applying this across the US

When I developed this for Minnesota, I was pulling the data from the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracking project which had all states but I filtered it just to Minnesota. To apply to all US counties and states, I just applied the same scoring to all US areas.

How to read the map:

To start interacting with the map I suggest selecting a state from the grey shaded area in the upper right. This will update the view to the left looking at the county level cases for the state which each county showing their suggested re-opening level. To view the score, toggle the “Show County Scores” to “Yes” above the map. Notice the bar chart in the lower left also updates to show that states re-opening level based on population. If you deselect a state, notice the bar chart removes the filter and looks at the complete US but you’ll notice the county scores get a little messy. That’s why I added the toggle.

See full visualization on Public Tableau.

Observations at the time of this post

  • 27% of the US falls in the 100% in-person learning category.
  • 58% of the US falls in the in-person learning for elementary schools.
  • 50% of the US falls in the hybrid for secondary students.
  • 19% of the US falls in hybrid for all students.
  • 5.7% of the US falls in the 100% distance learning category.
  • Worst state – Florida with 19.6% of the state being 100% distance learning and zero counties in 100% in-person learning.
  • Best States – New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. These are states with severe lockdowns and travel restrictions to keep new cases low and are 100% in-person learning statewide.
  • Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas make up the largest region of distance learning.


Despite and the high case counts in some areas, most of the country is in a position to re-open schools safely at some capacity. At least, the numbers were more favorable than I imagined across the country.

If you have questions on this post or would like more information on a specific region, let me know by visiting this page.

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