GEMA to Provide 911 Centers With Addresses of Patients With COVID-19
Update, April 16: The ACLU issued a statement April 16 denouncing the disclosing of addresses as an invasion of privacy.
“Protecting the health of first responders is very important; however, public health experts have noted that asymptomatic individuals, people who have not been tested, may transmit the virus. This practice is intrusive on privacy without conferring additional safety for our first responders. Government practice must be informed by the science,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. “As the Governor’s shelter-in-place order implies, our first responders need to be equipped to assume any person they encounter may have coronavirus and use the masks and other precautions recommended by the CDC.”
The state will begin providing 911 centers with the addresses of patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The move is an effort to protect first responders who might encounter the patients during emergency calls, according to a release from the governor’s office.
The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Public Health, will begin to provide a list of COVID-19 cases in each jurisdiction to 911 centers this week, the release said. The data will be pulled from the health department’s daily report on the number of COVID-19 patients.
To ensure the confidentiality of the patients, only the address will be shared with 911 centers, according to the release. If a 911 call is made from that address within the 21-day period of when a patient was potentially infectious, the dispatch center will alert the responding personnel.
First responders are taking precautions on all calls anyway, regardless of whether the address has been flagged.
“We are urging 911 centers to continue to ask COVID-19 screening questions for all requested responses to ensure that first responders have as many details as possible before arriving on the scene of a call for service,” said GECA Executive Director Michael Nix.
DPH will also retroactively identify any potential exposures.
A 911 supervisor from Gainesville, works the phones at the 911 operations center at the Hall County Emergency Services Headquarters.