What Health Department Can and Can’t Say About COVID 19 Patients
On the KGVO Talk Back show on Monday, several callers asked why the public cannot receive more detailed information about those who test positive for the coronavirus, such as where they live, where they have shopped or other information.
COVID 19 Incident Manager with the Missoula City County Health Department, Cindy Farr provided details on patient tracking and privacy.
“Whenever we find out that we have a positive case, we ask that person several questions, such as when did you start having symptoms, what were your symptoms like, where did you go and who were you around,” said Farr. “We are looking for people that may have been exposed to this and we are looking for people who have been within a six foot distance for 10 minutes or more.”
Farr attempted to lay to rest some common misunderstandings about becoming infected by COVID 19.
“The chances that you are going to contract COVID 19 from just passing somebody in the grocery store are pretty slim unless they cough right on you,” she said. “What we want to know is do you have roommates, do you have people that were riding in your car or were you sitting in the doctor’s office for an amount of time before you were seen. In order to protect patient privacy we don’t disclose information such as where they live or who they are, but if we feel you’ve been identified as a close contact with this disease then the health department will contact you and let you know so that you can be keeping yourself at home for 14 days to determine if you are going to develop symptoms.”
For those listeners that feel that need to have more information, Farr responded.
“I know that in general people would like to have more information than that, but you just have to keep in mind that if it was you and you were the one who tested positive, would you want everyone in the world knowing that you have it? Probably not, you would probably want that to be restricted to your close friends and family or people who may have potentially been exposed.”
Farr said in order to protect that person’s privacy then "the only information we give out is what is absolutely necessary and only to the people for whom it is necessary to know."
Farr issues a YouTube and Facebook message each day to keep Missoula County residents informed about the coronavirus pandemic.