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Alabama and Massachusetts are giving the addresses of people diagnosed with coronavirus to police in a bid to contain the virus

Originally published on April 1, 2020 by Daily Mail. Written by James Gordon.


  • Alabama and Massachusetts are handing details of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to the police and other emergency services

  • Daily lists are compiled and sent over so that police or ambulance crews sent on calls will know in advance if they’re dealing with an infected person 
  • Only addresses are sent on the list and no full names are captured
  • Both states promise to delete the information when the crisis is finally over
  • Civil rights activists say the orders are in clear breach of patients’ privacy 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

The states of Alabama and Massachusetts are now giving the details of people who are known to have been diagnosed with coronavirus to the police.  

Alabama has been providing the addresses but not names to law enforcement and other emergency responders for more than a week. 

The information is supposed to be given to officers when they go out on calls.   

Alabama and Massachusetts are handing details of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to the police and other emergency services

 

‘It’s only on an as-known, as-needed basis,’ said Leah Missildine, executive director of Alabama’s 911 Board to Vice

‘The impetus behind this is to protect first responders because 911 receives the information and coordinates the response of first responders. That was deemed the most efficient way to share this information.’   

‘The Alabama Department of Public Health was requested to provide addresses of patients home quarantined for COVID 19 to the Alabama 9-1-1 Board for the protection of first responders,’ said Arrol Sheehan, director of public information at the Alabama Department of Public Health.

The state of Alabama could also release information to third parties including doctors or anyone else who could be deemed to be exposed. 

Daily lists are compiled and sent over so that any calls that are made by police or ambulance crews will know in advance if they are dealing with a virus carrier (file photo)

The state say the rule came into force to help protect first responders, in particular.   

Sheehan quoted the part of Alabama law that authorizes such disclosures: ‘Physicians or the State Health Officer or his designee may notify a third party of the presence of a contagious disease in an individual where there is a foreseeable, real or probable risk of transmission of the disease.’

Sheehan said the decision was made mutually between the health department and the members of the 9-1-1 Board ‘to share this information to protect our first responders.’ 

In Massachusetts, the exact same system has also been operating for almost two weeks.

Each day, daily lists are sent over to police forces and ambulance crews across the state. 

The state say that no information will be kept about who was known to be sick once the crisis is over.  

Robert Greenwald, clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School, has called Massachusetts’ order ‘misguided.’ 

Officer Shaun Gariepy, left, and Officer Jessie Murray wipe down all the surfaces that are regularly touched on their cruiser at the beginning of their shift. Many police officers are following new cleaning and safety procedures amid the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country

‘Requiring local boards of health to disclose the addresses of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to officials administering the response to emergency calls and, in turn, to first responders, is not sound public health policy,’ he wrote in a statement.

Meanwhile, civil rights advocates say the policy ends up putting first responders in danger because many coronavirus carriers don’t show symptoms.  

‘It’s based on an early and mistaken idea that the disease was only spread by people who were obviously symptomatic,’ Dr. Deborah Peel, founder of the advocacy group Patient Privacy Rights, said. 

‘We now know that that’s wrong, so it makes no sense. Everybody should act in a careful, social distancing way to interact with anybody’s door they have to knock on.’ 

Alabama currently has 993 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 23 confirmed deaths from the disease. Massachusetts has 6,620 current cases and 89 deaths.