Law enforcement, paramedics, first responders and public health authorities play a critical role in curbing the spread of COVID-19—and need to keep tabs on infection transmission in real time. This week, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance on how covered entities may disclose to these individuals protected health information (PHI) about someone who has been infected with or exposed to COVID-19 in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. The guidance clarifies circumstances under which a covered entity may disclose protected health information without HIPAA authorization, so that first responders can take precautions and protective action to lessen the risk of infection.

The guidance may be found at: