WE & Seven Other Watchdogs Urge Mayor to Publish COVID-19 Data as Open Data

Bill de Blasio                                      VIA EMAIL
Mayor, City Hall
New York, New York 10007

April 30, 2020

Re: Please Publish the City’s COVID-19 Data as Open Data

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

We write to ask you to publish as open data the tabular information the City has gathered about the COVID-19 emergency. This valuable public data is of great interest to researchers and journalists and will allow the informed public to contribute insights and analysis to the City’s effort to fight COVID-19.

We greatly appreciate your efforts to tell the public what is happening through daily press briefings, the online COVID-19 data page and social media. We also wholeheartedly agree with the language in the City’s open data law, a bill you supported which states, “Making city data available online using open standards will make the operation of city government more transparent, effective and accountable to the public … [and] permit the public to assist in identifying efficient solutions for government, promote innovative strategies for social progress, and create economic opportunities.”

Though the COVID-19 data page is a valuable resource for those seeking local or demographic information about the virus’s impact, none of the information is available in the City’s open data portal. While some of the data provided is useful, much of it is limited, doesn’t provide raw numbers, and is only available in PDF format. We ask that the City make COVID-19 public data available as downloadable, machine-readable open data, which will vastly expand the use and thus value of City data gathered at great public expense. Any data provided should be shared by Neighborhood Tabulation Area.

We think it is reasonable to expect New York City to provide as open data information that has been provided in other government portals (see attached chart), such as the following:

  • Confirmed cases by race/ethnicity
  • Number of ICU patients who have tested positive for COVID-19
  • Percentage of hospitals responding to COVID-19 patients

Some of this information has been provided in the Mayor’s daily press conferences or on the COVID-19 page, but is not available as open data or outside of GitHub. The City can fill the gap by simply providing the information in the open data portal. We call for the City to open all COVID-19 datasets to the public by publishing them on the NYC Open Data Portal.

New York City is widely lauded for being one of the most transparent cities in the country. We ask that New York continue to lead by opening all COVID-19 datasets to the public.


John Kaehny
Executive Director
Reinvent Albany

Noel Hidalgo
Executive Director

Betsy Gotbaum
Executive Director
Citizens Union

Catherine Gray
League of Women Voters New York City (LWVNYC)

Daniel Bevarly
Executive Director
National Freedom of Information Coalition

Diane Kennedy
New York News Publishers Association

Blair Horner
Executive Director
New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)

Julie Samuels
Executive Director