Arizona Won't ID Long-Term Care Facilities With Coronavirus Cases Due To Privacy

By Kathy Ritchie
Published: Wednesday, April 15, 2020 - 10:26am
Updated: Monday, February 22, 2021 - 12:59pm

As of Sunday, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health had reported 169 cases of coronavirus in 30 long-term care facilities. The names of those facilities have not been disclosed. Now one aging advocacy group is trying to change that.

Dana Marie Kennedy is the state director of AARP Arizona. On Monday, she sent a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey asking the state to make the names of the facilities that have residents or staff with COVID-19 public. 

"But I think people just want to know," she said. "And who wouldn't want to know if their loved one was in a facility where there was a person in there or a staff person in there that had tested positive?

→ Attention Arizona Long-Term Care Facility Workers, Clients: We Want To Hear From You

Kennedy said that information could help inform a family member’s decision to bring their loved one home.

But just a day after Kennedy sent that letter to Ducey, the head of the Arizona Department of Health Services, Dr. Cara Christ, said the state would not name facilities with COVID-19 infections. She cited HIPPA as the reason why the state would not make that information public.

Dr. Cara Christ
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Dr. Cara Christ provides details on April 14, 2020, on the extent of COVID-19 in Arizona

"The address or facility where someone would live would be protected health information," she said.

HIPPA is a federal law to keep a patient’s medical info private. However Ohio’s Gov. Mike DeWine announced this week that his state will name long-term care facilities with confirmed COVID-19 infections. 

On Wednesday, Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine told reporters at a press conference that if a case of COVID-19 is detected at a long-term care facility, they strongly recommend that facilities notify residents and their families. She also said families should feel empowered to ask.

"One of the other ways that families or staff can be aware of what's happening in the facility, is once all of the residents are put on isolation precautions, whether or not they have respiratory symptoms, that is a sign that there has been some indication of a case in the facility," she said.

Sunenshine said it’s important for long-term care facilities to feel comfortable reporting confirmed COVID-19 cases and a reason why they will not publicly name facilities with the virus.

More than 3,600 deaths have been linked to the coronavirus in nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country.

→ Read The Latest News On The Coronavirus Disease 

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