Illinois coronavirus: Cook County Board president scuttles plan to notify first responders of COVID-19 case addresses

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In a major turnaround for a COVID-19 procedure that the I-Team has been looking into for weeks, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle vetoed a resolution that would have provided all first responders with the addresses of coronavirus patients.

When the plan passed on Thursday, Preckwinkle said she was "profoundly disappointed." Now, four days later, for the first time in her nearly 10 years as county president, she used her veto powers.

"Law enforcement, God bless them, are not public health officials," President Preckwinkle told the I-Team, saying that first responders would have had a false sense of security because not everyone who's infected has been tested.

During last week's virtual county board meeting the resolution narrowly passed-requiring health officials to provide first responders with the addresses of all COVID-positive patients.

"I had a lot of first responders reach out to me," said Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton. He sponsored the resolution.

"We have 35 states that provide these addresses. So, I know that we've said that Cook County Health does not believe that this is a good idea, I have a lot of respect for them. But, there are other people on the other side of this issue who have just as much of experience who say it is safe and necessary," Commissioner Britton told the I-Team.

There are more than 73,000 known COVID-19 cases in Chicago and Cook County. County health officials say there are thousands more who have coronavirus but have no symptoms and haven't been tested, potentially up to 100 times more people than the known number.

President Preckwinkle and top Cook County health officials are concerned both about potential stigmatizing of minority communities that have already been hit hard by the virus and about creating a false sense of security if first responders were notified of certain addresses when the actual number of infected locations may be much greater.

"This is targeting individual homes and there's privacy concerns with that as well as discrimination that goes on in certain communities and so we know that this kind of policy could exacerbate those discriminatory structures that occur in our black and brown communities," said Dr. Rachel Rubin, Cook County Department of Public Health.

"The challenge is not focusing on the mostly black and brown communities where the virus has been particularly virulent but trying to make sure that our first responders are protected whenever they go out. They should assume that whatever home they visit is a possible site where a person may have COVID-19," President Preckwinkle told the I-Team.
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