OCR Issues Guidance Regarding COVID-19, HIPAA, and Disclosures to First Responders and Public Health Authorities

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The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued additional guidance today, March 25, 2020,  regarding disclosures of protected health information (PHI) to law enforcement, paramedics, other first responders and public health authorities in the context of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic. Specifically, OCR has reiterated that the HIPAA Privacy Rule permits a covered entity to disclose, under certain circumstances, the name or other identifying information of an individual who has been infected with, or exposed to, the virus SARS-CoV-2, or the disease caused by the virus, COVID-19, with law enforcement, paramedics, other first responders and public health authorities without the individual’s authorization. The guidance discusses specific examples such of permitted disclosures, ranging from disclosures that are required by law pursuant to infectious disease reporting requirements to disclosures by healthcare providers in prison medical facilities to correctional officers at the facility. The guidance is available online and can be viewed here.

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