Health departments in Rock Island and Scott counties are sharing with police and first responders the personal identification of people who test positive for COVID-19.
In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, Scott County Health Department Director Ed Rivers and Rock Island County Health Department’s Chief Operating Officer Janet Hill confirmed the sharing of information with emergency responders and law enforcement.
At least 35 states share the addresses of those who tested positive, and research by the Associated Press showed at least 10 states go further and share the names of people. Iowa is one of those states, along with Colorado, Louisiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee. Wisconsin stopped the practice earlier this month.
As the pandemic unfolded in March, the United States Department of Health and Human Services gave its approval for any state that wanted its health department to share information about infected people with law enforcement agencies, fire departments and emergency responders. The move has drawn criticism from some in minority groups who worry about profiling and even sharing of information with immigration officials.
The process for tracking COVID cases is simple: State and local health departments keep track of who has received a test in their region and then provide the information to dispatch centers.
Locally, the information from each health department follows a different path.
In Scott County, the health department turns the names and addresses over to the Public Safety Answering Point, which then supplies the Scott County Emergency Communication.
Essentially, dispatchers are armed with information to help emergency responders.
Major Shawn Roth of the Scott County Sheriff’s Department confirmed the process, which was developed with guidance from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. He pointed out the information is available on a per-call basis and Iowa’s guidance states no compiled lists are to be distributed to any agency outside the dispatchers.
Major Jeff Bladel of the Davenport Police Department said the information was crucial in the effort to keep officers healthy.
“What’s been provided to us is a way to rapidly know what the risks are and how we can respond to emergencies,” Bladel said. “The information has been accessible. Often, we can know about risks on the way to an address.
“It’s valuable in another way, too. Because we can trace if we have to. We can look back at the history of calls and where we went.”
Hill said that in Rock Island County the health department gives COVID-19 patient information to the Emergency Management Agency.
“There is no requirement from the state to do this, but we want our first responders to be as protected as possible.
“I want to stress, however, that law enforcement and EMS should be responding to all calls with caution and care. We have to try and limit exposure.”
According to the AP, the national Fraternal Order of Police said more than 100 police officers in the United States have died from COVID-19 complications. Hundreds more have tested positive, straining police department staffs.
The Scott County Sheriff’s Department, the Davenport Police Department and the Bettendorf Police Department have not reported any COVID-19 cases among their staffs.
One Moline police officer confirmed a positive test, but no information about Rock Island’s police department, Rock Island County's sheriff’s department or East Moline officers has been released.
In the daily briefing with reporters, the Rock Island County Health Department reported one new death, a woman in her 90s. The total number of deaths in Rock Island County from COVID-19 is now 24.
In addition, the health department reported three new cases, bringing the total number to 648. Currently, 13 patients are hospitalized.
Hill took a moment to remind people of the danger posed by the novel coronavirus.
“I watched the wife of a man in his 50s describe her husband while he was dying,” Hill said. “To us, he is a statistic, a man in his 50s. But he was loved by the people who knew him.
“People are dying. Not just some people in the 90s or some people in their 50s. People are dying before their time.”
COVID-19 can spread to anyone, including those who protect communities and respond to emergencies.
Scott County reported three new cases, bringing its total to 317. The death toll remained at eight.
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