Can my COVID-19 status be disclosed against my wishes?

Can my COVID-19 status be disclosed against my wishes?

As the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), a highly transmissible disease,
rapidly spreads throughout our communities in wide-spread fashion, many
privacy, moral, ethical and societal questions emerge as to who has a right
to know who is infected.

In this week’s Newsletter, we examine an individual’s right to privacy vs. the need to know for Public Health Reasons

The HIPAA Privacy Rule recognizes the legitimate need for public health authorities and others responsible for ensuring public health and safety to have access to protected health information that is necessary to carry out their public health mission.

Therefore, the Privacy Rule permits covered entities to disclose needed protected health information without individual authorization:

1.To a public health authority, such as the CDC or a state or local health department, that is authorized by law to collect or receive such information for the purpose of preventing or controlling disease, injury or disability.

· At the direction of a public health authority, to a foreign government agency that is acting in collaboration with the public health authority. See 45 CFR 164.512(b)(1)(i).
·To persons at risk of contracting or spreading a disease or condition if other law, such as state law, authorizes the covered entity to notify such persons as necessary to prevent or control the spread of the disease or otherwise to carry out public health interventions or investigations. See 45 CFR 164.512(b)(1)(iv).

2.Disclosures to Prevent a Serious and Imminent Threat: Health care providers may share patient information with anyone as necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health and safety of a person or the public – consistent with applicable law (such as state statutes, regulations, or case law) and the provider’s standards of ethical conduct. See 45 CFR 164.512(j).

SPECIAL COVID-19 WAIVER TEMPORARILLY SUSPENDS HIPPAA PROTECTION

In response to the National Emergency declared by President Donald Trump in regard to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Secretary Alex Azar, Secretary of the HHS, recently announced that, effective March 15, 2020, a limited HIPAA waiver would be temporarily set in place covering the following provisions of the HIPAA Privacy Rule:

The requirements to obtain a patient’s agreement to speak with family members or friends involved in the patient’s care – 45 CFR 164.510(b)
The requirement to honor a request to opt out of the facility directory – 45 CFR 164.510(a);
The requirement to distribute a notice of privacy practices – 45 CFR 164.520
The patient’s right to request privacy restrictions – 45 CFR 164.522(a)
The patient’s right to request confidential communications – 45 CFR 164.522(b)

Additionally, on account of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s “Shelter-in-Place” order, many unsuspecting individuals may be in close proximity with potentially infected individuals, at risk of contracting this highly transmissible and life-threatening virus. In these instances, the moral and ethical responsibility of anyone having knowledge of the imminent danger would be to warn those immediately in danger. While not clear as to the individual ramifications; in light of the above-stated laws, it would appear the whistleblowers may have a good Samaritan/safe harbor defense.

If you have any questions about this or any other criminal accusation, call Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Will Trivino-Perez at: (310) 443-4251 or visit our homepage www.tpalawyers.com for a direct link to chat with us.

(310) 443 4251

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10940 Wilshire Blvd 16th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90024
www.tpalawyers.com

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