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Addresses of coronavirus-positive residents handed over to police in some states

Originally published on April 1, 2020 by Yahoo Finance. Written by Stephanie Pagones.

Alabama and Massachusetts health officials are sharing with law enforcement the addresses of people diagnosed with new coronavirus so emergency responders can be properly prepared when answering 911 calls involving those who have tested positive.

The personal information is limited to the addresses of people who have known COVID-19 cases, and is only provided to first responders, such as police officers, according to the respective laws.

“It’s only on an as-known, as-needed basis,” Leah Missildine, executive director of Alabama’s 911 Board, told VICE News in a story published Tuesday. “The impetus behind this is to protect first responders because 9-1-1 receives the information and coordinates the response of first responders.”

As of Wednesday morning, at least 999 COVID-19 cases and 24 deaths were reported in Alabama, data from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center shows.

The 911 Board will receive daily address reports provided by the Alabama Department of Health, and will then distribute information to designated recipients, according to the report.

A spokesperson for Alabama’s Department of Public Health said in an emailed statement to FOX Business that the department “was requested to provide addresses of patients home quarantined for COVID-19 to the Alabama 911 Board for the protection of first responders. Please note that only addresses and not names were to be given.”

The permissions were included in a state law enacted in March that extends to doctors and others who are potentially at risk.

The spokesperson pointed to a specific line in the law, which states: “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.”

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts order that took effect on March 18 calls for local health boards to provide designated emergency response officials with the addresses of COVID-19-positive residents living in their jurisdictions.

At least 620 COVID-19 cases and 89 deaths have been reported in Massachusetts, according to data from Wednesday morning.

“The disclosure of information shall be limited to the address, and shall not include any other identifying information, including name,” the order states.

But the order has received opposition from a number of people, such as Robert Greenwald, faculty director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School.

Greenwald wrote a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker on March 20, in which he called the emergency order “misguided” and said it would “undermine both individual and public health.”

“Our first responders must treat everyone as if they potentially have COVID-19 and use universal precautions on all calls,” he wrote. “Relying on information provided by state health officials is not helpful. There will be no effective ‘list’ as the overwhelming majority of people who are infected with COVID-19 do not know it. And sadly, over time, more than half the addresses in our state will likely end up on the list.”

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