Health department: Sparse info protects patients


By Josh Ellerbrock - jellerbrock@limanews.com



LIMA — Before a rumor got out of hand, Jeff Evers, owner of Village Hardware in Leipsic, decided to confront it.

“No one at Village Hardware has COVID-19,” Evers said in a five-minute video posted online.

According to Evers, rumors had been flying around on social media that a store employee had contracted the disease. Such a false rumor meant real damage to his business.

In the same manner, Ohio health departments are trying to keep a hold on dangerous rumors by limiting the amount of information released on COVID-19 patients. Allen County Public Health reaffirmed its commitment to protecting individual privacy rights in a press release sent out Friday morning.

“This is part of public health’s work to balance public interest with the privacy rights of our individual citizens within our community,” Allen County Health Commissioner Kathy Luhn said. “We are committed to ensuring they receive proper, compassionate care as well as preventing any possible spread of infectious disease.”

In the same release, ACPH said the agency will also not share the number of cases by zip code.

When the first death in the region — in Mercer County — was reported early Friday evening by Mercer County Health District, the agency only released that the patient was a 71-year-old man who was recently hospitalized.

“We live in a small community, and we ask you to be respectful. COVID-19 has already caused a lot of fears and anxiety, and spreading rumors can fuel panic. If you hear a rumor that is not supported by facts released by our office, ODH or CDC, please do not spread that rumor,” Mercer County Health District’s Facebook post stated.

Ohio Health Department Director Dr. Amy Acton briefly discussed the subject during Friday’s daily briefing on the coronavirus. At the moment, case counts are low enough that an individual could be identified if zip code information is available, so the state is looking at what could be done to eliminate that possibility. Dr. Acton mentioned potentially limiting information on less-densely populated zip codes as an option, and the state is working on the details.

For those worried that they may have interacted with someone who has the disease, Allen County Public Health has a process in place to track possible exposures.

When the health department does receive info on a confirmed case, the county agency reaches out to close contacts of confirmed cases in one business day in order to pass down orders to self-quarantine for two weeks.

If those that self-quarantine end up with COVID-19 symptoms, the process starts again in order to trace who might have come in contact with that individual.

The entire press release on patient details can be read online at limaohio.com

https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/04/COVID-19-Press-Release-Data-sharing-4-3-20.docx
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By Josh Ellerbrock

jellerbrock@limanews.com

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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