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Court rules health department must turn over COVID-19 patient names to police dispatchers

File Photo | Photo by Alex Vucha.

The court has ordered the McHenry County Health Department to release names of COVID-19 patients to 911 dispatchers after several police departments and the sheriff’s office filed a lawsuit.

The temporary court order was issued Friday evening and the names will be provided to the McHenry County Emergency Telephone System Board on a call-by-call basis.

Dispatchers will now be able to warn police officers about coming into contact with a coronavirus patient.

On Thursday, Lake and McHenry County Scanner reported on two separate lawsuits 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 named the defendant as the McHenry County Department of Health.

The lawsuit asked 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.

“MCDH believes that having the names of these patients will actually confer a false sense of security to the police, and that they should be taking extra protective steps with all people they encounter, including with colleagues,” the McHenry County Department of Health said in a statement Saturday after the ruling.

“The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as well as Illinois privacy law, indicate that it is permissible to release protected health information during this time, but only the ‘minimum necessary to accomplish the purpose.'” the health department said.

“In MCDH’s professional public health opinion, given what we know about how this disease spreads, the general lack of testing, epidemiological data and the stay-at-home order, providing the personal names of cases exceeds the minimum information needed to protect law enforcement,” the health department added.

The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office argued they do not have enough personal protection equipment to utilize the appropriate level of precaution during every interaction with the public.

The police departments argued 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.

Officers will not have independent ability to obtain the names of infected individuals.


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