In a rare move, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle exercised her veto powerin this instance, to overrule county board commissioners who voted, by a narrow margin, to release the addresses of confirmed COVID-19 patients to suburban 911 dispatchers, The Daily Herald reported.
The commissioners voted nine to seven, with one voting present. The board consists of 15 Democrats and two Republicans.
In issuing the veto, Preckwinkle said she was following guidance from county public health officials who advised against disclosure of the information. Commissioner Scott Britton, who sponsored the resolution, said he will not pursue a veto override because he does not have the mandatory three-fifths majority to do so.
Equality Illinois CEO Brian E. Johnson lauded Preckwinkle's move. In a statement to Windy City Times, he said, "Last week, [nine] members of the Cook County Board voted to release to first responders the addresses of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. We agree with public health experts that this resolution imperiled public health. Through this disclosure, we not only would have placed patients' civil liberties at risk, we would have deterred testing among historically marginalized communities. Less testing means less protection for our public health professionals. It also means less insight on how to beat this virus.
"Thank you to President Preckwinkle for vetoing this resolution. We are grateful for the advocacy of groups like Howard Brown Health, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and the ACLU of Illinois who helped make it clear that this resolution was bad public health policy."
Cook County Commissioner Kevin E. Morrison also sent a statement to Windy City Times. It said, "I am very grateful for President Preckwinkle's leadership in issuing a veto of the Resolution to Share Addresses for Emergencies with First Responders. I voted against this resolution because our public health experts stated that this move would not keep first responders safe, would create a false sense of security, and would violate the privacy of our citizens.
Now, more than ever, we need to follow the science and listen to our public health leaders. Without knowing every person who is positive for COVID-19, and data showing that individuals are most contagious the day or two before developing symptoms, this means we must continue to treat every call as if the person were positive, and utilize the necessary PPE for each and every single call.
"Additionally, as the only LGBTQ member of the Board of Commissioners, I feel a great responsibility on behalf of my community to remember the damage done and stigmatization during the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 80s and 90s, and how a resolution like this could repeat that history for marginalized communities affected by this pandemic. I will continue to fight for our first responders by advocating for the necessary PPE to keep them safe while serving our communities. They go above and beyond each day, and we owe them a great debt of gratitude, as well as equipping them with the necessary PPE to do their jobs safely."
The Daily Herald article is at www.dailyherald.com/news/20200526/preckwinkle-denies-release-of-covid-19-patient-addresses-to-dispatchers .