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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 31, 2020 10:27 PM
From: Senator Kim L. Ward
To: All Senate members
Subject: Requiring DOH to Release Communicable Disease Information by Municipality
I am introducing legislation requiring the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) to notify county commissioners or their designated county emergency management coordinator of the municipality in which there is any confirmed communicable disease cases, such as COVID-19. 
The Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955 places primary responsibility for the prevention and control of communicable diseases with local departments of health and with the Pennsylvania Department of Health for those municipalities without their own.  The Act also prohibits both state and local health departments from disclosing reports or records of diseases outside of the health departments except when necessary for them to carry out disease prevention and control under the law, the interpretation of which has varied among 
With only 10 local health departments in the Commonwealth, the majority of our counties fall under the DOH for communicable disease prevention and control.  This means while more specific geographic information of communicable diseases are available in some counties such as Montgomery which has publicly mapped the municipalities in which there are positive cases of COVID-19, the majority of counties do not know which municipalities have been hardest hit by COVID-19 because the state Department of Health refuses to release any information beyond the county in which they are located.
Any lack of more specific location of COVID-19 cases creates a huge obstacle to our county emergency management agencies who are coordinating aspects of the local response to this pandemic.  Knowing only the county of COVID-19 cases falls far short in helping plan for and divert vital and sparse medical resources to where they may be needed most within a county. 
My bill will not compromise the confidentiality of patient information. No names or other information will be released beyond the municipality in which the person with a communicable disease like COVID-19 resides.   
Please join me in sponsoring this important measure to improve emergency services during this time of crisis.

Introduced as SB1110