Several police departments and the sheriff’s office in McHenry County have filed lawsuits to obtain COVID-19 patient names from the health department.
Two separate lawsuits were filed in McHenry County — one on behalf of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, and the other on behalf of police agencies in the city of McHenry, village of Algonquin, city of Woodstock, and village of Lake in the Hills.
Both lawsuits name the defendant as the McHenry County Department of Health.
The lawsuit seeks to have the health department turn over names of coronavirus patients so that police officers can take adequate precautions should they make contact with someone who has the virus.
The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office said they do not have enough personal protection equipment to utilize the appropriate level of precaution during every interaction with the public.
The police departments argue that HIPAA allows disclosure of patients’ names without their prior consent if it prevents or minimizes the threat of imminent exposure to a police officer.
The Illinois Attorney General issued guidance regarding the issue and said that local health departments may disclose COVID-19 patient information so first responders make sure they use personal protective equipment.
The lawsuit asks that the names are released directly to the McHenry County Emergency Telephone System Board. Dispatchers would be able to warn police officers they would be coming into contact with a COVID-19 patient.
Officers would have no independent ability to obtain the names of infected individuals.
The police departments cited a news article in their suit that highlighted how COVID-19 has spread through the New York City Police Department.
The article written by CNN said that 12 NYPD members had died from coronavirus complications and 20% of their uniformed police force was out sick due to the virus.