In response to a proposed Cook County Board resolution compelling the disclosure of private health information to law enforcement and other first responders against the recommendation of public health experts, the ACLU of Illinois submitted testimony today strongly opposed to the measure. In testimony to the Commissioners, Executive Director Colleen Connell warned the board that sharing private medical information – the identities of all people in Cook County who have tested positive for COVID-19 – would undermine public health, increase the risk of spreading the virus, and violate federal and state legal protections.
“The Illinois Department of Public Health does not recommend disclosing the personal health information of those who test positive for COVID-19, including their names and addresses,” the letter reads. “Public health experts are unified in urging first responders to treat every member of the public with whom they come into contact as potentially infectious because any list of people who test positive for COVID-19 is incomplete.”
The resolution before the Cook County Board comes after EMS and law enforcement agencies from across the County went to court seeking to force the release of the private medical information. A Cook County judge rejected the request. Similar lawsuits also are moving forward in McHenry and Lake Counties.
The ACLU letter notes that these lists will give first responders a false sense of security, and that the release of test results will discourage many from seeking the testing and treatment that is crucial to ending the pandemic.
“Upholding individual privacy is what will best protect the people in Cook County who need to access medical care, the broader public health, and first responders themselves during the current pandemic. For those compelling reasons, the ACLU of Illinois opposes the enactment of this resolution,” the letter concludes.