Certain COVID-19 Case Disclosures Now Required in Ohio
4/23/2020 UPDATE: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced on April 19, 2020 that, in addition to existing requirements to report COVID-19 cases to state and local health departments, nursing homes will now be required to report confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Furthermore, nursing homes will be required to notify residents and their representatives of COVID-19 developments in the facility. CMS will soon issue formal rules and guidance on these requirements, but Ohio has already created similar requirements of its own through another Director’s Order.
Two Director’s Orders issued by the Ohio Department of Health Director, Dr. Amy Acton, establish certain situations where disclosing a case of COVID-19 is now required. The first order, dated April 14, 2020, requires that local health departments provide dispatch agencies with the names and addresses of individuals living within their jurisdiction who test positive for COVID-19. The purpose of this order is to prevent exposure to first responders by providing them with the information necessary to take appropriate precautions against the spread of COVID-19 and, ultimately, ensure that Ohio maintains its capacity to respond to emergencies. Because the information being shared is considered “protected health information” under Ohio law, the dispatch agency first responder, and first responder agency must maintain, access and utilize the information as specifically set forth in the order or be subject to criminal liability:
- The information may only be released to those persons or entities acting in an official capacity as first responders who are responding, or may reasonably be called upon to respond, to such person or address.
- The information shall only be used as necessary to control, mitigate or prevent the spread of COVID-19 from such person to first responders.
- The information must be removed from the dispatch agency’s system after a person has recovered from COVID-19, the emergency declared by the Governor no longer exists or an additional order to remove the information is made.
First responders must continue to use recommended standard precautions for all emergency responses and assume that any individual they interact with may carry COVID-19.
The second Director’s Order, issued on April 15, 2020, applies to nursing homes, residential care facilities and licensed facilities that provide residential services to individuals with developmental disabilities. These facilities must notify residents, as well as their sponsors and/or guardians, of positive or probable cases of COVID-19 among other residents and staff within the facility. Notification must be provided within 24 hours of the facility being informed of its first positive or probable case, and it must include information about the steps the facility is taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the facility. Facilities with existing positive or probable cases of COVID-19 have 24 hours from the date of the order to notify residents as well, if they have not done so already. However, notification is not required for an individual admitted to the facility that already has recovered from COVID-19 and no longer requires isolation or other precautionary measures. Facilities must also send a copy of the notification materials, such as a letter or call script, to the Ohio Department of Health.
Both of the aforementioned orders are effective until the state of emergency declared by Governor DeWine no longer exists or until the order is rescinded or modified.
Should you have any questions concerning disclosures or reporting required pursuant to these orders, please contact Ms. Rubin.
Anna L. Crisp, a law clerk with Eastman & Smith who is finishing her third year at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, contributed to this article.
At the date of publication the above information was correct. It is quite possible the information above has changed as COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation.
The article in this publication has been prepared by Eastman & Smith Ltd. for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney/client relationship.