Northwest Central Dispatch System (NWCDS), the multi-community fire and police 9-1-1 center based in Arlington Heights, may proceed with plans to file suit in Cook County Court Friday, April 24, 2020 to attempt to get the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) to release information on confirmed Coronavirus COVID-19 patients in the Northwest suburbs.
The information regarding confirmed Coronavirus COVID-19 patients would be entered into the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system as premise warnings by NWCDS, so police and fire personnel can be notified when they are dispatched to an address with a history of known Coronavirus infection at the address. NWCDS would agree to remove these premise warnings after an agreed amount of time.
Currently, dispatchers or telecommunications operators ask callers questions about flu symptoms, respiratory symptoms, presence of a confirmed COVID-19 patient or known exposure to a COVID-19 patient, and travel history. Callers are not always cooperative with the 9-1-1 operators, which can cause unnecessary delays in response times, less than optimal response strategies, or a waste of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Crews have been advised to protect their hands, mouth, nose and eyes when caring for persons potentially infected with SARS-CoV-2. If crews involving four personnel respond to a call, two members with close exposure to patients wear PPE, while the extra two personnel standing by might only wear PPE if they are actually needed to assist the first two EMS personnel. Patients with possible or confirmed Coronavirus COVID-19 infections, who are well enough to walk on their own power, are often asked to meet paramedics outside to reduce exposure risks to paramedics that would be likely inside an infected person’s residence.
On February 27, 2020, the World Health Organization emphasized the importance of preserving personal protective equipment (PPE) by not using it unnecessarily.
Paramedics also must disinfect surfaces and materials in ambulances possibly contaminated by respiratory secretions from patients with Coronavirus COVID-19 that could be shedding the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Health Care Professional’s Awareness Levels of Patients’ Coronavirus Infections
Positive test (Facility/Date Understood)
“Presumptive positive” — waiting for test results
Patient Under Investigation (PUI) based on Signs and Symptoms
Exposure to a known COVID-19 patient (Date Understood)
NWCDS, stated in a news release that its member communities, and the police and fire agencies of those communities agree that in order to help mitigate the danger to first responders, as well as protect the public at large, the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) should share information related to confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the 9-1-1 center’s service area.
The lawsuit would involve a complaint for a temporary restraining order in Cook County circuit court. On Monday, April 20 2020, NWCDS Board of Directors determined to file its Complaint. However, the Board also tried to work with elected County Board Commissioners to gain the release of the information without the need for legal action. The NWCD Board of Directors’ first choice was to resolve this issue through the cooperation of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the County Board, according to a news release dated April 23, 2020.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle turned down or did not respond to formal and informal requests by NWCDS and some of the elected officials in the communities served by NWCDS to order the CCDPH to provide the requested Coronavirus COVID-19 information to NWCDS. The Cook County Board met on Thursday, April 23, 2020, but did not address the issue.
Also, a resolution to provide addresses of COVID-19 patients sponsored by 14th District Commissioner Scott Britton (Democrat) of Glenview and five other county board members was sent to committee Thursday, April 23, 2020. The resolution earned letters of support from mayors and village presidents in Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Palatine and Wheeling.
The April 23, 2020 news release from NWCDS stated that “NWCDS truly had hoped that the County Board would take action to facilitate the release of the COVID-19 information to NWCDS at that meeting. Because the Cook County Board did not act to release COVID-19 information to the 9-1-1 center, NWCDS is moving forward with its legal action on April 24, 2020, and will request a hearing with a judge. NWCDS has also heard from other 9-1-1 dispatch agencies and police and fire departments within Cook County supporting this action.”
Northwest Central Dispatch System (NWCDS) with eleven member departments and two contract departments serves police and/or fire agencies for Arlington Heights, Barrington-Countryside (Fire/EMS only), Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Inverness (Police only), Mount Prospect, Palatine, Palatine Rural FPD (Fire/EMS only), Prospect Heights (Police only), Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, and Streamwood.
Buffalo Grove is located in both Cook County and Lake County. The Lake County Health Department released a statement Friday, April 10, 2020 that it will not release the addresses of people who have tested positive for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), despite repeated requests to do so.
The Lake County Health Department stated that officials stand firm in their commitment to protect the health and safety of all Lake County residents and first responders, and to protect the confidentiality of its residents during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The statement from the Lake County Health Department said that providing addresses of positive COVID-19 cases provides a dangerous, false sense of security for our first responders. While 1,243 residents (less than .2 percent of the population) have tested positive for COVID-19 as of April 10, tens of thousands more may be infected who have not been tested, are awaiting test results, or do not yet have symptoms. Recent studies show that a significant portion of people infected with the virus have no symptoms and can still spread it to others.
The statement by the Lake County Health Department did not account for the statement by the World Health Organization that there is a very low chance of transmission from a person with no symptoms. In their statement, the Lake County Health Department also did not account for information related to concern that the severity of illness in newly infected Coronavirus patients is virus dose-dependent from the contagious patient, and that doctors and nurses are contracting Coronavirus COVID-19 at an alarming rate.
“NWCDS truly had hoped that the County Board would take action to facilitate the release of the COVID-19 information to NWCDS at that meeting,” dispatch system officials said in a news release. “Because the Cook County Board did not act to release COVID-19 information to the 911 center, NWCDS is moving forward with its legal action on April 24, 2020, and will request a hearing with a judge.”
— NWCDS April 23, 2020
Officials from the dispatch system state that having confirmed information on coronavirus patients would up the level of safety precautions paramedics, firefighters, police take before they arrive on emergency calls. Dispatchers planned to enter the information into their computer-aided dispatch system as “premise warnings” when sending police or fire responders to an address, but vowed to remove the information after an agreed amount of time.
“My personal position had been that we should follow Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines. My understanding is that those guidelines suggested that our first responders should assume that any residence that they go to is possibly infected by COVID-19 since 80% of the people who get the disease have either mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.”
— Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Thursday April 23, 2020
McHenry County Health Department, initially refused to provide names of COVID-19 patients, but the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office and police departments from Algonquin, Lake in the Hills, McHenry and Woodstock sued the McHenry County Health Department on Tuesday April 7, 2020. A McHenry County judge ruled that the names of Coronavirus COVID-19 patients should be provided, but must be kept confidential, and the information about a patient must be removed from the 911 dispatch computer system seven days after the McHenry County Health Department determines the patient is no longer contagious.
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