Lake County sheriff sues health department for COVID-19 patient information

The Lake County sheriff has filed a lawsuit to force the county health department to provide information about COVID-19 patients.

A judge is scheduled to hear the matter in court Friday.

The suit was filed Tuesday, days after the health department refused a request last week from Sheriff John Idleburg to, on a confidential basis, pass along the names and addresses of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the county, sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Christopher Covelli said.

"This will help our deputies responding to calls and it will also help us place confirmed positive cases immediately in medical isolation cells at the jail," Covelli said Thursday. "Knowing an inmate is COVID-19 positive upon their entry would allow us to place them immediately into an isolation cell with reverse airflow capability, versus in the pod being used for the 14-day quarantine period."

Hannah Goering, a spokeswoman for the Lake County Health Department, said while the agency thinks the sheriff's request was made with good intentions, health officials believe providing this information would give police a dangerous, false sense of security.

"To date, approximately 1.67 percent of Lake County residents have been tested for COVID-19, and only 0.51 percent of residents have tested positive," Goering said. "The data the sheriff is requesting vastly underrepresents the number of people infected within our communities."

Goering said first responders cannot let down their guard, whether at someone's home or bringing someone into the jail.

"Our message remains unchanged: Assume that anyone you encounter is infected," Goering said.

Because the health department and sheriff's office were unable to come to an agreement, the sheriff's office believed it was necessary to "elevate the matter to the circuit court," Covelli said.

Other suburban police and health departments have been at odds over patient information.

In McHenry County, the health department didn't release names and addresses of COVID-19 patients to police until Sheriff Bill Prim and four police departments filed a lawsuit.

In Cook County, the Northwest Central Dispatch System is suing to get the Department of Public Health to release information on confirmed COVID-19 patients.

The health departments in DuPage and Will counties are providing addresses of COVID-19 patients to first responders.

Why two counties are providing COVID-19 info to first responders - and others aren't

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