Protect emergency service providers by providing COVID-19 info

Delaware should adopt similar policies as other states to further protect our courageous emergency service personnel and the Delawareans they bravely serve. These policies should be implemented immediately and examples of other states actions can be emulated as follows:

State and local governments are beginning to share the addresses of people who test positive for Covid-19 with police and other first responders in an effort to help protect emergency personnel from getting infected.

Health officials in at least three states—Alabama, Massachusetts and South Carolina—have all decided to share the information as a way to put first responders on high alert when they are called to a home where someone is known to be infected.

Federal health care privacy laws would typically limit disclosure of patients’ confidential health information, including their addresses, without their permission. But last month the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance identifying specific circumstances under which usually protected personal health information could be disclosed to law enforcement, foreseeably clearing the way for state and local governments to make such disclosures.

The recent disclosure that 20 emergency personnel are in quarantine because they responded to calls in which the patients had tested positive for the coronavirus, unbeknownst to them, highlights a serious threat to those brave individuals and to Delaware’s emergency response system.

The News Journal reported that “Claymont emergency medical services were dispatched to at least two recent calls in which the patient was positive but the first responders were not immediately made aware.”

As Claymont Fire Company President Tom DiCristofaro said, “This loss hits us hard as volunteers are harder to come by these days, and ultimately hurts the response to our community.”

John Kowalko
State Representative
25th District

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