Some Tennessee legislators tell citizens to limit information to protect COVID-19 health status

Tenn. Black Caucus raises concerns about COVID-19 patient information

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Over 52,000 tests have been administered for COVID-19 in Shelby County, but the Tennessee Black Caucus of Legislatures is worried that fewer people will get a test knowing that their information is being shared with law enforcement.

“Get tested now. Get tested tomorrow. Get tested every opportunity that you have, but we’ve got folks who are suspicious of law enforcement having their personal information,” said Tennessee Black Caucus of Legislatures Chairperson G.A. Hardaway.

In Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 patients addresses only are flagged in Shelby County’s E 911 system in case there’s an emergency call from the home.

MPD, SCSO have COVID-19 patient information

MPD Director Mike Rallings said last week the information is protected

“It is used to protect the first responders and the community because God forbid if our first responders became exposed that could increase exposure to our community at large,” said Rallings.

Other Tennessee law enforcement get a full list of patient names and addresses directly from the state health department.

Hardaway says patients should have been told before taking the COVID-19 test that their health status would be shared with people other than their doctor and state health officials.

He says next month when the legislature reconvenes he and his colleagues will push for legislation limiting the governor’s ability to release certain information during a pandemic.

He wants to clarify who can get information, safety protocols for how information should be stored and verification to the public that their information has been cleared.

“We want to make sure that the next governor and the next governor and so on that they understand there are limits to their emergency powers," said Hardaway.

List of COVID-19 patients shared with law enforcement agencies

In the meantime, members of the Tennessee Black Caucus suggests citizens who wish to protect their privacy should not give their home address, but rather give just their city, state and zip code.

Hardaway says that still allows health officials to track the virus without giving up too much personal information.

Shelby County Health Department’s director Alisa Haushalter said Monday that they have seen a decrease in the number of people receiving a test, but that is a national trend.

They are still learning what is leading to the decrease.

We did reach out to Memphis Police and the Shelby County Health Department for a comment, but we have not heard back.

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