The Iowa Public Information Board
COMES NOW, Margaret E. Johnson, Executive Director for the Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB), and enters this Dismissal Order.
On May 21, 2020, Derek Kravitz filed formal complaint 20FC:0051, alleging that the Wapello County Public Health (County) violated Iowa Code chapter 22.
Mr. Kravitz filed a request for emails and documentation including the terms “2019-nCoV(CoV)”, “coronavirus”, “COVID-19”, and “JBS” on May 19, 2020. He was informed that same day that the records may be confidential under Iowa Code sections 22.7(2) and (16), as well as under Iowa Code section 139A.3(2). The County indicated that further review was underway to determine if the records could be released.
On May 20, 2020, the county attorney advised Mr. Kravitz that he was seeking further guidance from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
The County provided a response to the IPIB on May 22, 2020. The response included a copy of the Iowa Department of Public Health guidance concerning release of information pertaining to infectious diseases (Exhibit A). The response also noted that it had only been three days since the request was received and that Iowa Code section 139A.3(2) governs release of these records.
Mr. Kravitz replied on May 22, 2020, stating that he had received similar information from another county. The County noted that Iowa Code section 139A.3(2) requires that the County await specific permission from the state epidemiologist or the State Department of Public Health prior to releasing this information.
Iowa Code section 139A.3 states:
139A.3 Reports to department — immunity — confidentiality — investigations.
1. The health care provider or public, private, or hospital clinical laboratory attending a person infected with a reportable disease shall immediately report the case to the department. However, when a case occurs within the jurisdiction of a local health department, the report shall be made to the local department and to the department. A health care provider or public, private, or hospital clinical laboratory who files such a report which identifies a person infected with a reportable disease shall assist in the investigation by the department, a local board, or a local department. The department shall publish and distribute instructions concerning the method of reporting. Reports shall be made in accordance with rules adopted by the department and shall require inclusion of all the following information:
a. The patient’s name.
b. The patient’s address.
c. The patient’s date of birth.
d. The sex of the patient.
e. The race and ethnicity of the patient.
f. The patient’s marital status.
g. The patient’s telephone number.
h. The name and address of the laboratory.
i. The date the test was found to be positive and the collection date.
j. The name of the health care provider who performed the test.
k. If the patient is female, whether the patient is pregnant.
2. a. Any person who, acting reasonably and in good faith, files a report, releases information, or otherwise cooperates with an investigation under this chapter is immune from any liability, civil or criminal, which might otherwise be incurred or imposed for such action.
b. A report or other information provided to or maintained by the department, a local board, or a local department, which identifies a person infected with or exposed to a reportable or other disease or health condition, is confidential and shall not be accessible to the public.
c. Notwithstanding paragraph “b”, information contained in the report may be reported in public health records in a manner which prevents the identification of any person or business named in the report. If information contained in the report concerns a business, information disclosing the identity of the business may be released to the public when the state epidemiologist or the director of public health determines such a release of information necessary for the protection of the health of the public.
3. A health care provider or public, private, or hospital clinical laboratory shall provide the department, local board, or local department with all information reasonably necessary to conduct an investigation pursuant to this chapter upon request of the department, local board, or local department. The department may also subpoena records, reports, and any other evidence necessary to conduct an investigation pursuant to this chapter from other persons, facilities, and entities pursuant to rules adopted by the department. (Emphasis added).
It appears that the County is without authority to release the requested records without state authorization. If and when such authorization is granted, the County can then fulfill the records request. At this time, the complaint is premature.
Iowa Code section 23.8 requires that a complaint be within the IPIB’s jurisdiction, appear legally sufficient, and could have merit before the IPIB accepts a complaint.
IT IS SO ORDERED: Formal complaint 20FC:051 is dismissed as legally insufficient pursuant to Iowa Code section 23.8(2) and Iowa Administrative Rule 497-2.1(2)(b).
Pursuant to Iowa Administrative Rule 497-2.1(3), the IPIB may “delegate acceptance or dismissal of a complaint to the executive director, subject to review by the board.” The IPIB will review this Order on June 18, 2020. Pursuant to IPIB rule 497-2.1(4), the parties will be notified in writing of its decision.
By the IPIB Executive Director
Margaret E. Johnson, J.D.
1. Counsel referenced Burton v. University of Iowa Hospitals, 566 N.W.2d 182 (Iowa), as limiting release of a record pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 22 when a specific statute outside Chapter 22 prohibits or curtails such release.
CERTIFICATE OF MAILING
This document was sent by electronic mail on the ___ day of June, 2020, to:
Reuben Neff, county attorney for Wapello County