In response to COVID-19, normal rules and policies are having to be broken.
Alabama is one of at least two states currently sharing the addresses, but not names, of confirmed COVID-19 patients with emergency response personnel.
According to our news partners at AL.com, it’s part of an effort to protect first responders from becoming infected.
Normally, that information would be shielded to comply with patient confidentiality law.
But during the unprecedented times, both Alabama and Massachusetts determined the benefits to public safety outweigh privacy concerns.
Since March 23, the Alabama Department of Public Health has provided a list of the addresses of COVID-positive patients to the Alabama 911 Board, a state agency that shares funding, technology, and now information to the state’s 85 local 911 response districts.
The board’s executive director says she forwards those addresses to the local 911 district. They then enter the information into a computer dispatch system.
If emergency personnel are called out to an address that has been flagged in the system, the responders will be alerted to take precautions to prevent infection.
The policy of providing sensitive health information of patients to first responders has concerned some privacy groups, including ACLU Alabama.