Mobile County releases COVID-19 data by zip code, why hasn’t Jefferson County released it yet?

Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 10:58 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Jefferson County remains one of the biggest hotspots for COVID-19 in the state and officials are trying to sort through the data, right down to their zip code, to tell us who is being affected.

The Jefferson County Department of Health is trying to figure out the best way legally to release this information without identifying people. They could look to Mobile for help.

You can now find coronavirus cases by zip code in Mobile County. The county health department there releasing those numbers last week

“We are restricted from the HIPPA privacy rule in providing the number of cases for any zip code that has less than 20-thousand people,” Dr. Rendi Murphree, an MCHD Epidemiologist said in a recent virtual news conference.

Birmingham City Council President William Parker and other members of the community have been calling for Jefferson County to release zip code data for COVID-19 cases for Birmingham and the county because of the impact the virus is having nationwide on the African American community. So far, that hasn’t happened.

Dr. Mark Wilson, the county’s health officer says he wants to release more data, but he wants to do it in the best legal way possible. That’s something Mobile had to negotiate with the state health department.

“To really take the privacy rule and determine the greatest extent that we could share information while not violating the privacy rule,” Murphree said.

On it’s COVID-19 dashboard, the state of Florida has zip code data for almost every county. That information is something Dr. Deborah Birx, who’s on the nation’s coronavirus task force, highlighted recently on a national morning show. The Florida Department of Health says the newly assembled map provides additional transparency and real-time information for residents and visitors across the state.

That information, if made available more in Alabama, could help with funding for more coronavirus testing which we know is needed in the state. Earlier this week, Governor Ivey says less than one percent of the state’s population has been tested for the virus.

Parker is working to get the state of Alabama, Mobile County and even the state of Florida on the phone to try and figure out the best way to get the zip code data released for Birmingham and Jefferson County.

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