Pa. senate passes bill requiring police to be notified of COVID-19 infections
State and local health departments will be required to notify law enforcement and other emergency personnel if a person in their jurisdiction has COVID-19
ERIE, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Senate has approved a bill that would require local first responders to be informed if a person has COVID-19.
Senate Bill 1110, an amendment to the Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955, would require the Pennsylvania Department of Health or local health authority to release "individually identifiable health information" related to a communicable disease such as COVID-19 when a disaster emergency proclamation is issued by the governor based on the disease. The information would be released to 911 centers, law enforcement agencies, fire departments, coroners and emergency medical services personnel.
The Senate passed the bill earlier this week and it now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
State Sen. Dan Laughlin, of Millcreek Township, R-49th Dist., said in a news release announcing the bill's approval that local emergency responders do not have enough personal protective equipment to use in responding to calls. The bill would help them better prioritize and target the use of the equipment so they can protect themselves in situations where they know they will be exposed to COVID-19 on the job, Laughlin said.
Area law enforcement agencies, including the Erie Bureau of Police, have been pushing Erie County government to provide access to the names of COVID-19 patients in a effort to better protect first responders. Fraternal Order of Police lodges representing officers in the city and Erie County have filed suit against the Erie County Department of Health in an effort to get the names of COVID-19 patients released to the county 911 center.
The names would be released to first responders but not disclosed to the public.
The suit charges that, by not providing the names to the 911 center, the Department of Health is violating the department's duty to be "responsible for the prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases" under the state's Disease Prevention and Control Law. Failing to comply "places every active police officer and law enforcement member in danger of exposure, contraction and the attendant consequences of COVID-19," according to the suit.
The county Department of Health currently provides addresses of COVID-19 patients, but not names, to the 911 center. The Department of Health, in its response to the suit, argues that the current practice balances privacy with the need to protect law enforcement.
A hearing on the suit is scheduled for Wednesday.