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An Illinois judge has ordered that the McHenry County Health Department hand the names of those who have tested positive to coronavirus over to police.
The Health Department in McHenry, approximately an hour outside Chicago, had originally refused to hand over the names, prosecutors said. Health departments typically cite privacy concerns in withholding such information, specifically the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally’s office filed a lawsuit last week on behalf of Sheriff Bill Prim, who had asked the Health Department to provide the names and addresses of those infected to 911 dispatchers. The information would be relayed to officers assigned to each call so that they could take necessary health precautions.
“This was a no-brainer for the Health Department, a common-sense, confidential, and entirely lawful way they could have worked collaboratively with police departments to assist in enhancing the safety of officers and the community in these dangerous times, and they strangely refused,” Kenneally said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“The fact that we had to spend precious time and public resources, clearly best spent elsewhere in this difficult time, to get a court order in our favor is beyond disappointing,” Kenneally continued.
The health department said in a statement that while it was “compelled to provide the information,” it remains the health department’s “professional health opinion” that providing patients’ identities to the police is excessive.
“While we are compelled to provide this information, MCDH has requested the tightest control of this private medical information, whereby it will be provided only to the Emergency Telephone System Board (ETSB-911) for dissemination on a call-by-call basis,” the department continued.
The department added that giving the names of COVID-19 patients to police will “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.”