Attorney General Mike Hunter today advised the Oklahoma State Department of Health that releasing the data about COVID-19 infections does not violate state or federal law, as long as individuals are not identifiable.
After consultation with the attorney general, the OSDH will resume releasing local infection data and deaths. Demographic data, such as age and race, will only be released in aggregate.
“Releasing the total numbers of each locality, county and state-wide demographic data threads the needle of providing up-to-date information to the public while protecting the privacy of Oklahomans,” Hunter said. “This data are important for citizens to have at their disposal to make informed decisions. I appreciate OSDH Interim Commissioner Lance Frye and Secretary of Health Jerome Loughridge, for bringing this matter to the attention of my office for review.”
The attorney general advised the interim health commissioner and secretary of health that while state law prohibits the department of health from disclosing personal health information, it may nonetheless release epidemiological information for statistical purposes in such a way that no person can be identified.
Officials were concerned that releasing detailed demographic information could inadvertently identify someone who is infected with or died from COVID-19, which would violate state laws on medical record confidentiality.