Access to COVID-19 Status Information by Specified Persons
ACCESS TO COVID-19 STATUS INFORMATION BY
April 6, 2020
As part of the effort to support emergency frontline responders and contain the spread of COVID-19, the government has made an emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that would enable fire services to obtain COVID19 status information (positive status only) from specified custodians (i.e., medical officers of health and licensed laboratories). COVID-19 status information consists of name, address, date of birth, and whether the individual has had a positive test result.
Through this emergency order, the government recognizes that it is crucial that first responders have access to COVID-19 status information (positive status only) of individuals with whom they are coming into contact to help protect and reduce the potential spread of the virus to first responders and those that they come into contact within the community.
The emergency order will allow fire services to request this information and require specified custodians to provide it for the 14 days it is in effect (until April 17, 2020) or longer if the emergency order is renewed. The government will continue to assess the need for COVID-19 status information on an ongoing basis.
Please note this will be implemented through a centralized mechanism/application; therefore, outreach to licensed laboratories and Medical Officers of Health is not recommended.
Personal health information about the COVID-19 (positive) status of an individual must only be used to prevent, respond to or alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 emergency, such as ensuring appropriate measures are taken to protect fire personnel when responding to a call. It cannot be used for any other purpose. Consistent with the purpose of the emergency order, fire personnel may continue to confirm the COVID-19 (positive) status information of an individual they have interacted with after the interaction while this emergency order remains in effect. This information is subject to any relevant law with respect to privacy and confidentiality when the declared emergency is terminated including, as applicable, the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act or the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The confidentiality and protection of this personal health information is paramount.
This approach ensures consistency with other “premise warnings” issued by dispatch systems which also alert first responders to such things as mental health concerns and weapons.
Currently, through active screening protocols implemented during 911 calls by ambulance dispatchers, the COVID-19 status information is shared with first responders when applicable. The most recent dispatch call screening protocol is also provided for your reference.
Having access to COVID-19 (positive) status information is one precautionary measure. Fire services should also consider information about community spread of COVID-19, and risk assessments should happen for any contact with members of the public including on route to situations and on scene. Fire services should also adapt current practices to allow for physical distancing where possible and seek advice from their occupational health and safety/infection prevention and control experts on personal protective equipment based on provincial guidance. Please continue to exercise caution during interactions as there may be times when individuals who are positive for COVID-19 may not have been tested for the virus or may not be showing symptoms of COVID-19.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General is urgently working with the Ministry of Health on the operationalization of this emergency order through the development of an information portal. Once this mechanism/application becomes available, the Office of the Fire Marshal will communicate further details to all fire chiefs including centralizing access to COVID-19 status information through existing communication and dispatch services. As indicated earlier, outreach to licensed laboratories and Medical Officers of Health is not recommended.
I want to thank all fire services for their continued response to this pandemic. If you have any questions, please contact your fire service advisor.