Several local public health agencies in Colorado are sharing information with emergency dispatchers about households where people have tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The agencies say the practice provides a warning to first responders to take extra precautions when dispatched to those homes, but privacy advocates are raising concerns.
Authorities in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas and El Paso counties confirmed to The Colorado Sun that they follow the practice, first brought to light Tuesday in a national Associated Press investigation. The AP found that coronavirus information sharing between public health officials and emergency dispatchers is widespread across the U.S.
“It’s just another layer of protection first responders can be armed with when they are going to those calls for service,” said Jacqueline Kirby, a spokeswoman for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
Sharing the information is legal under state and federal law, officials say, but privacy experts worry that doing so is dangerous and unnecessary and that it could even lead to a situation where people are afraid to seek out testing out of fear that their medical history may be disclosed.
“It seems to me it’s just a pointless invasion of privacy that really serves no purpose,” said Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado.