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Is COVID-19 test data being shared with law enforcement agencies?
To enable law enforcement officers across New Jersey to better protect themselves and to more effectively use their limited supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NJ Department of Health (NJDOH) has authorized Local Public Health Officers to share the names and addresses of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 with law enforcement.
At the same time, however, NJDOH has requested certain steps be followed to secure the information being shared and the privacy of the individuals affected. In response, the New Jersey Attorney General has issued Law Enforcement Directive No 2020-1, which instructs law enforcement officers across the state on appropriate use of information from local public health officers about positive COVID-19 tests in order to safeguard the health of officers while also protecting the privacy of those who are ill.
The Attorney General's directive incorporates NJDOH's requests and establishes the procedure for obtaining COVID-19 Information from health officials, the process for sharing such information with law enforcement and others, and the limitations on its use including:
- State, county, and municipal law enforcement officers may only be informed that a particular individual has tested positive for COVID-19 through the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system when accessed for a legitimate law enforcement or public safety purpose, and they may not disseminate that information further, except in limited cases.
- No law enforcement officer may use COVID-19 Information as a basis to refuse any call for service.
- Any law enforcement officer receiving COVID-19 Information may only use it for the limited purpose of protecting their health and safety, and the health and safety of other officers and first responders responding to the same address or otherwise interacting with the same individual.
- No law enforcement officer or agency may require individuals to identify themselves as COVID-19 positive or quarantined when seeking assistance from law enforcement or other first responders, nor advise or require individuals to provide public notice of COVID-19 positive/quarantined status.
For more information, see Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive No. 2020.