Metro Health Dept. gives COVID-19 patient info to Metro Police

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Posted at 2:47 PM, May 08, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Metro Nashville Public Health Department is sharing the addresses of anyone in Nashville who tests positive for COVID-19 with the Metro Nashville Police Department.

The statement, posted to social media, said the information is shared with the department so that first responders can take additional safety measures if called to a COVID-19 positive home.

Officials said the list is regularly updated and addresses are removed once the patient has recovered from the virus. They added that it is also never given to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Davidson County Sheriff's Office nor is it for public dissemination.

Real the full statement below:

"For a month we’ve been providing that information," Metro Public Health Department Spokesperson Brian Todd said. "We feel like sharing this information with [Metro Police] in a secure way is good for the community and it's good for our first responders."

"We want them to [respond] knowing that there may be an issue with COVID and wear the appropriate PPE and protect themselves," Todd continued.

Todd said the information shared with MNPD are the addresses tied to cases of COVID-19. He said the database is updated daily, and patients who have recovered are removed. The database is put into the emergency communications system, and officers are not able to browse the addresses in the database.

"The only way they would know that information is if they are being dispatched to an address where there is a known case of COVID-19," Todd said. "I don't have any concern that that would be shared in any way beyond how it is supposed to keep those first responders safe."

When asked if the database sharing could violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a federal law that aims to protect patient information, Todd said the law allows for health departments to share limited information when it is for "the safety of the community."

Some Metro leaders argued the practice is concerning, and could undo some of the progress Nashville has made in the fight against COVID-19.

"When you find out your personal information is being turned over to law enforcement, it creates the immense health risk and we are going to have Nashvillians that are not getting tested," Council Member Colby Sledge said, adding that the concern is magnified because the latest outbreaks are in areas with large minority communities.

"The places we are seeing outbreaks of positive cases are in communities that are already wary of law enforcement," Sledge said.

Sledge said he and other metro leaders had asked for information regarding testing data for weeks, but weren't getting answers. He said finding out in a tweet was frustrating, and that the Metro Public Health Department's statement left more questions than answers, like why police officers weren't wearing maximum PPE to every call, and if there was a shortage of the protective gear.

Now he's calling on health leaders to stop sharing information with law enforcement and to be more transparent about testing.

"It's putting out entire county at risk because our government is not being transparent with us," Sledge said.