ILLINOIS — Law enforcement agencies in northern Illinois want a judge to force local health officials to turn over the names and addresses of people with COVID-19 to protect first responders.
The towns of McHenry, Algonquin, Woodstock, Lake in the Hills and McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim filed suit in McHenry County Circuit Court against the McHenry County Department of Health. The lawsuit asks that the names and addresses be provided to local 911 dispatchers, who could then notify those responding to emergency calls.
In his lawsuit, Prim claimed the health department had agreed to share the addresses of COVID-19 patients, but not the names.
Prim said the addresses, which could be outdated or incorrect, weren’t sufficient without accompanying names to ensure the safety of first responders who have a limited supply of personal protective equipment.
“Despite repeated guidance that the disclosure requested by the Sheriff is permissible and required to protect the health and safety of the officer, the Health Department has refused to provide such information,” McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Jana Dickson wrote in the complaint on behalf of the sheriff.
An April 3 memo from Illinois Attorney General’s Office concluded that “federal and state law permit, but do not require” notification for first responders about a confirmed COVID-19 case at a particular address.
If a judge agrees, dispatchers would provide the information on a case-by-case basis, according to the lawsuit.
Illinois Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jim Kaitschuk said the association supported the effort to protect first responders.
“The ISA is very supportive of this effort and other efforts that help provide information to keep our staff, all first responders and the members of our community safe,” he said. “It is, however, very unfortunate that Sheriff Prim and other local law enforcement leaders have had to go this extent to get information that very clearly has been authorized by both the Federal and State Government, not to mention their State’s Attorney.”
The McHenry County Health Department could not immediately be reached for comment on the lawsuit Thursday. However, McHenry County Public Health Administrator Melissa Adamson previously raised privacy concerns and said providing names and addresses could create a “false sense of security,” the Northwest Herald reported.
The Center Square – Brett Rowland