Source: Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana Department of Health is accusing some rural parish officials of misusing lists of patients who tested positive for the coronavirus, violating privacy laws and misinterpreting the data to claim the virus outbreak is less severe than it is.
To combat what it considers improper handling of sensitive data, the health department sent an email to all parish emergency leaders Thursday telling them if they want to keep receiving the reports, they must sign a new data sharing agreement limiting how they can use the data and requiring destruction of earlier records.
“The problem we had is when we did share it, we told them, ‘This is (federally protected) information. You’re not to share it with everyone.’ They have not always followed our guidance,” said Dr. Jimmy Guidry, Louisiana’s state health office. “They have shared and put information out and put names out, and that changes the way people react to you, at your home, in your community.”
The health department sends lists of patients who tested positive for the coronavirus to local emergency officials to help first responders know when to prepare for interacting with someone infected.But the Advocate reports that in some rural parishes, emergency officials combed through the names, noticed duplicates and shared the lists with other elected officials. Several claimed it was evidence Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration is inflating the number of cases because their list didn’t match up with the official tally of cases.“It’s funny to me that if they’re not misrepresenting then why did they all of the sudden quit sending out these reports?” […]