Coronavirus

Why We Don't Know How Bad COVID Is in Your Denver Neighborhood

Why We Don't Know How Bad COVID Is in Your Denver Neighborhood
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Colorado currently has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the country, with the spread resulting in hospital capacity issues that Governor Jared Polis called unsustainable at a recent press conference. Yet residents of Denver have only a general idea about how bad the situation is in the city, since neighborhood-specific statistics have been unavailable for well over a month — and it's unclear when or in what form they'll return.

The timing could hardly be worse.

Early in the pandemic, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment created a summary page that provided information about COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths and more for all 78 neighborhoods in the city. It was a terrific resource, one we relied on for posts published in November 2020, February 2021 and more. But when we visited the page in early October, we discovered that it only contained stats about vaccinations — and that hasn't changed.

A note on the page states that "all data, maps, and visualizations pertaining to COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and testing can now be found on the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment website." Early last month, however, none of these features were actually available. In response to our inquiry, a DDPHE spokesperson told us that new dashboards were under construction and set to be online by month's end.


That prediction proved to be overly optimistic. When the dashboards still weren't accessible in late October, we reached out to the DDPHE again and were promised that everything should be up and running by early November.

Nope. The morning of November 15, the dashboards were still absent. But things changed, sort of, that afternoon, when department spokesperson Courtney Ronner told us, "Good news! Case summary data and outbreak data are now available on our website."

While that's true, the new site is infinitely more difficult to navigate than the old one, requiring thirteen separate clicks to get info that previously could be seen just by scrolling. A snapshot of the Denver data updated on November 12 shows a total of 96,633 cases (a 15.9 percent change), 961 deaths (a 69.2 percent change) and 142 people hospitalized (a 16.1 percent change) on that date. Subsequent pages reveal a graphic displaying cases by the day of report, the one-week cumulative incidence rate, a hospitalization census and general demographic figures.

Unfortunately, details about cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Denver neighborhoods are nowhere to be found. "Zip code-specific data" will be "coming soon," Ronner says. "While the data was publicly unavailable, it was still being collected and analyzed," she adds. "As always, Denver County data is also reflected on the CDPHE website."


Information collated by zip code rather than neighborhood should still be helpful in identifying hot spots in Denver, if not nearly as user-friendly as the previous iteration. The health department appears to have decided to fix what wasn't broken but still hasn't finished the job — and that leaves Denver residents with no idea of what's happening in their own back yard, even as COVID-19 rates are spiking again.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts