CHICAGO (CBS) — The fallout continues after a controversial vote by the Cook County Board of Commissioners to release the addresses of confirmed COVID-19 patients to first responders.
First responders at suburban police departments like in Hazel Crest say the list is crucial for their safety. Meanwhile residents argue it is an invasion of their medical privacy.
Following the vote Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she was “profoundly disappointed.”
And with that 9-7 vote, the Cook County Department of Public Health will disclose the addresses of COVID-19 positive patients with 911 dispatchers in suburban Cook County for the next 60 days.
Ed Yohnka with the ACLU of Illinois says he was shocked to see the resolution pass given that Rachel Rubin, the Senior Medical Officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health, advised against it.
“Every individual that a first responder comes in contact with, you should assume that they are positive,” said Rubin. “From a health standpoint this is basically not good practice.”
Yohnka also worries about fear of being put on a law enforcement list.
“Actually discourages people from seeking testing and seeking treatment and seeking care, and those are the things that are going to get us out of the pandemic,” said Yohnka.
In support of the motion are dozens of suburban Cook County police departments, fire departments and mayors.
Chief Mitchell Davis, President of the South Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Actually I was kind of blindsided by the opposition,” said Hazel Crest Police Chief Mitchell Davis, who is also president of the South Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police, which represents about 70 municipalities.
He says it’s impractical for first responders to be wearing full personal protective gear to every call, and they’re just looking as much information as possible. But there are people who weren’t ever tested or are asymptomatic who won’t be on the list.
“No intel is going to be 100%,” said Davis. “It’s not about targeting anybody. It’s not about doing anything like that. It’s totally about giving our officers as much information as we possibly can to make sure that we’re allowing them to be safe.”
The ACLU of Illinois says it is currently looking into any legal paths it might have to challenge this decision.
The resolution does not impact the City of Chicago, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot did take to Twitter Thursday night voicing her disapproval.
A recent Associated Press survey found that sharing this type of information happens in at least 35 states now, including Illinois. And at least 10 states go a step further by also sharing names.
The information will be part of a confidential system only accessible by law enforcement.