Law enforcement agencies in Scott County are not receiving information about people who test positive for novel coronavirus.
A policy by the TN Dept. of Health to distribute the names and addresses of Covid-19 patients to law enforcement agencies came to light last week, with investigative reporting by the Tennessee Lookout — a new, nonprofit media outlet in Nashville that reports on matters of state government.
The Lookout disclosed letters sent by the Dept. of Health to sheriffs in Tennessee on April 9, and to chiefs of police on April 20. The letter contained an offer to make available to those law enforcement chiefs a list, updated daily, of people who have tested positive for the virus and their addresses.
In a response to the Lookout, Dept. of Health spokeswoman Shelley Walker said, “The purpose of disclosures is to prevent or control the spread of Covid-19, minimize the threat of exposure to law enforcement officers and employees, and protect the health of individuals in custody.”
But the revelation has sparked controversy, leading to calls for the administration of Gov. Bill Lee to change the policy. Critics have cited privacy concerns.
Neither the Scott County Sheriff’s Office or the Oneida Police Department have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Dept. of Health, a prerequisite for receiving the Covid-19 patient information.
Across the state, 32 sheriff’s offices and 35 police departments have signed the MOU and are receiving the information.
The police departments closest to Scott County who have signed MOUs include those in Knoxville, Harriman and Crossville. The closest sheriff’s offices to have signed MOUs include Anderson and Morgan counties, in addition to Roane and Cumberland counties.