Each time the Boulder Reporting Lab sends you our newsletter, BRL Today, we’ll include information to help you make sense of the Covid-19 pandemic in Boulder County. 

We compiled and analyzed data from a variety of state and federal sources to come up with our own statistics on new cases, on hospital capacity and on outbreaks in Boulder Valley schools. 

To get you this data regularly, we made several judgement calls, informed by accessibility of certain data, expert interviews and best practices. These include deciding which sources to use (and which to leave out) and how to present the information in a way that offers context and captures how the pandemic is trending — where it’s heading and where it’s been. 

We are open to making changes to how we report this data so that it is most useful. If you have ideas, send us an email. We have begun filing open-records requests to the state to also track vaccine rates in our population. 

Case Counts

We are building our own dataset of Covid-19 cases using data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

This data is updated just about every day. We use it to calculate the 7-day average of daily new Covid-19 cases in Boulder County. To give you a sense of how things are trending, we include the 14-day change, which is the 7-day average of daily new cases for this week compared to the last week.

The data isn’t perfect. Backlogs in reporting cause spikes. Some days, the state does not update the data. But we hope to smooth out these inconsistencies by using averages as part of our analysis. 

Boulder County Public Health also collects daily COVID-19 case data. We decided to not use this data because of how difficult it is to access. To compile our dataset, we use an R application to access the state’s data through an API, an interface that the county does not make publicly available. 

We will use arrows to indicate how average case counts are trending from week to week.

Hospital Capacity

We also compiled data on hospitalizations and capacity in Boulder County.

This includes the 7-day average of daily Covid-19 patients, the 7-day average of daily Covid-19 patients in the ICU, the percentage of the county's ICU beds occupied by Covid-19 patients, and the total percentage of the county's ICU beds occupied by patients with and without Covid-19.

We are using arrows to indicate how the recent numbers compare to the historical 7-day daily average, which dates back to July 2020.

We are using data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This dataset is updated every Monday. We decided to not use Boulder County Public Health’s data, which the agency receives from Denver Health, because it is difficult to access and is updated inconsistently. 

The county's Covid-19 numbers are based on a disease interview or medical record review, which is different than HHS, which bases its numbers on laboratory confirmed cases.

K-12 Schools

Lastly, our newsletter will include the number of Boulder Valley School District students and staff quarantining due to suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19. We will also include the total number of inactive cases resulting from a negative Covid-19 test or a 10-day quarantine.

We are using data compiled by Denver-based COVIDCheck Colorado, which BVSD contracted to conduct its testing program. We will update our numbers every week given the difficulty of accessing the data, which must be downloaded to a PDF file before we analyze it.

Editors note: We will update this story frequently with new data. We may also updated it with new methodology.

John Herrick is senior reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering housing, transportation, policing and local government. He previously covered the state Capitol for The Colorado Independent and environmental policy for VTDigger.org. He is interested in stories about people, power and fairness. Email: john@boulderreportinglab.org.

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