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Lake County sheriff files lawsuit against health department for COVID-19 patient names

File Photo (Lake County Sheriff’s Office) | Photo: Woo-Sung Shim / Lake and McHenry County Scanner.

Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg has filed a lawsuit against the Lake County Health Department after health officials refused to release names and addresses of COVID-19 patients.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday and a hearing has been scheduled for this Friday, records show.

“We know the Lake County Health Department has been diligently working around the clock to keep the community healthy and informed. That said, Sheriff Idleburg wants to do everything in his power to keep his employees, their families, and the community safe during these times,” Lake County Sheriff Spokesman Sgt. Christopher Covelli said.

Idleburg asked the Lake County Health Department on April 23 to release the names and addresses of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 on a confidential basis.

The Executive Committee of the Lake County Board of Health said in a statement that there are a large number of asymptomatic individuals in every community and that releasing the information provides no benefit.

“While other government agencies have elected to release this information, the Lake County Board of Health and Health Department align with the State’s guidance that doing so provides no public health benefit and a potential ramification of this release could include the mishandling of private medical information protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA),” the committee said.

“We stand by our position that assuming a person does not have COVID-19 creates a dangerous, false sense of security that would result in our first responders not taking appropriate precautionary measures,” the committee added.

Covelli said that Idleburg wants to help deputies responding to calls and help inmates at the jail stay healthy.

“Having this information is especially important for new inmates being admitted to the jail. Jails are congregate facilities and separation of inmates is not a simple task in a confined space,” Covelli said.

He added that those being admitted to the jail could immediately be placed into isolation cells if they are COVID-19 positive instead of being placed with other inmates who aren’t infected.

“Thus, knowing an inmate is COVID-19 positive upon their entry would allow us to place them immediately into an isolation cell with reverse airflow capability, versus in the pod being used for the 14-day quarantine period, with other inmates,” Covelli said.

He said that the health department and sheriff’s office has been unable to come to an agreement and the sheriff’s office believes it is necessary to elevate this to court.

“A Judge will hear both sides and make a determination. We look forward to the decision of the Court and will certainly respect the outcome,” Covelli said.

In McHenry County, four police departments and the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office filed a lawsuit in early April against their health department.

A judge granted the police departments’ requested and ordered the health department to release names and address of COVID-19 patients to the county’s 911 center on a call-by-call basis.


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