Law Enforcement Prevails in Litigation Against the McHenry County Health Department
April 13, 2020
LAW ENFORCEMENT PREVAILS IN LITIGATION AGAINST THE McHENRY COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Patrick D. Kenneally, McHenry County State’s Attorney, announces that Judge Michael Chmiel has entered a Temporary Restraining Order mandating that the McHenry County Health Department disclose the names of those actively infected with COVID-19 to first responding officers.
The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office filed the lawsuit earlier this week on behalf of the McHenry County Sheriff. After filing, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills, McHenry City, and Woodstock Police Departments joined the Sheriff’s suit.
According to Sheriff Prim, “[i]t’s critical that law enforcement receive this information in a timely fashion so we can keep our officers healthy in order to continue providing the best possible service to our communities,” said Sheriff Prim.
Prior to filing the lawsuit, the Sheriff had requested of the McHenry County Health Department that they provide the names and addresses of those actively infected with COVID-19 to the McHenry County Emergency Telephone System Board (“ETSB”), which oversees 9-1-1- dispatch in McHenry County. This information would then only be available to law enforcement officers, on a call-by-call basis, who are dispatched or responding to situations that involve affected individuals. Despite assurances that law enforcement officers would prioritize the confidentiality of this sensitive medical information and direction from federal and state officials that the disclosure was permissible, the Health Department refused to do so. Thereafter, the Sheriff filed the instant suit.
“This was a no-brainer for the Health Department, a common-sense, confidential, and entirely lawful way they could have worked collaboratively with police departments to assist in enhancing the safety of officers and the community in these dangerous times, and they strangely refused,” said Patrick Kenneally. “The fact that we had to spend precious time and public resources, clearly best spent elsewhere in this difficult time, to get a court order in our favor is beyond disappointing.”
Pursuant to the emergency court order entered late Friday night, the Health Department must disclose the names of those currently infected with COVID-19 to the ETSB within 24-hours of being notified. The court ordered further that any names received shall be purged from ETSB records “7 days after the Department of Public Health deems these individuals to no longer be contagious.” Lastly, the court ordered that “all information received by the ETSB shall remain and be kept confidential.”