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ODH Order Requires Facilities to Notify Residents, Guardians of COVID-19 Cases

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) order issued April 15 requires that all Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) licensed facilities give notice to residents and guardians within 24 hours of the first time they have a positive or probable case of coronavirus (COVID-19) within the facility.

This includes staff as well as residents. The notice may be electronic, by telephone, or written and must include the steps the facility is taking to control the spread of the infection within the facility. A copy of the notice or a call script must be provided to ODH.

The notice should never include the name of the staff member or person with disabilities. The notice is a way to let people know that the virus is in the facility, not to name the person with COVID-19. There should not be any confidential or personal information in the notice.

Even though some facilities might be small enough (those with four people) that the identity of the person receiving services or the staff might be deduced, this should not be a source of concern for providers.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) specifically allows for this kind of disclosure to a public health agency during an emergency, and ODH does not release protected health information (PHI) except in certain extreme safety circumstances. 

For example, disclosure of PHI without the person's consent is permissible when made to a public health authority to prevent or control the spread of disease.

The notice requirement is only required for the first time a case is reported. If a second case occurs, or other cases occur, in the facility, another notice is not required.