Court: Police have no right to COVID-19 patients' names, addresses
Ruling that police have no right to the information, a state appeals court has tossed an order requiring the McHenry County Health Department to provide the names and addresses of COVID-19 patients to emergency dispatchers.
The ruling overturns an April 10 temporary restraining order McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel entered after several county law enforcement agencies, including the Algonquin and Lake in the Hills police departments and the sheriff's office, sued the health department for the information.
Under Chmiel's order, the health department had to provide a list of COVID-19 patient names to the McHenry County Emergency Telephone System Board. Dispatchers could then share the information with first responders called to one of those patients' homes.
But in their 20-page unanimous decision handed down Thursday, the Second District Appellate Court writes that police have no legal right to information. Under the law, the court notes, health departments can share the information with police, but it's not required.
"(Police) were in no way entitled to the April 10 entry of the temporary restraining order," Justice Joseph E. Birkett wrote. "Perforce, the original temporary restraining order was improvidently granted. As a result, plaintiffs could not remotely demonstrate the existence of a fair question regarding their right to the information sought. Thus, the trial court unquestionably abused its discretion in denying the motion to dissolve the temporary restraining order."
Representatives of the sheriff's office and health department couldn't be reached for comment Sunday.
Before Chmiel's April 10 order, health department officials had refused to share coronavirus patient names with police and first responders, citing privacy concerns and saying it would not protect officers. Instead, they argued, police and first responders should assume everyone they come into contact with has the virus.
Birkett wrote that the court's decision should not be interpreted as an endorsement or disapproval of either side.
"We commend all parties for their efforts in these unprecedentedly trying times, and we wish only that all the parties are placed in the best position to discharge their duties safely and effectively," he wrote.