Florida releasing more geographical COVID-19 information than Alabama

Coronavirus

In Mobile County, impact is less information for minority communities

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Want to find out if there are any COVID-19 cases where you live? You will be able to if you live in Florida, but not if you live in Alabama

The Florida Department of Health, on its website, is now providing COVID-19 case numbers for all zip codes in the state. Also, county health departments in Northwest Florida have been detailing coronavirus numbers for municipalities within their counties.

The Mobile County Health Department (MCHD), however, is only giving the numbers of coronavirus cases for zip codes with more than 20,000 residents. The MCHD cites federal HIPAA laws designed to protect patient privacy, and legal guidance it is receiving from the state.

“The release of information regarding COVID-19 patients is subject to prior approval by our state health authority, the Alabama Department of Public Health in Montgomery,” said MCHD spokesman Mark Bryant. “The Mobile County Health Department is in frequent communication with ADPH and is adhering to its guidance regarding the disclosure of patient information.”

Florida, however, began sharing information by all zip codes Friday, saying on its website “this newly assembled map was developed to provide additional transparency and real-time information for residents and visitors across the state.”

Alabama’s policy could have the effect of keeping information from people in Mobile County who may need to see it most. In Mobile County, only seven zip codes have 20,000 or more residents. Of those, only one, 36605, has a majority African-American population. Both locally and across the nation, COVID-19 is more greatly impacting African-American communities. As of last week, approximately 60-percent of COVID-19 cases in Mobile County were African-American. The county’s black population is 36-percent.

To see Florida’s website click here and then click “cases by zip code” at the bottom of the page.

To read the HIPAA policies about releasing information to the public, click here.

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