Health officials differ on sharing specific information about COVID Outbreaks in California

Posted at 1:58 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-26 14:52:58-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Across California, the total number of COVID-19 cases are climbing.

According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the most recent statistics on COVID-19 show California's positivity rate is trending modestly upward in the 14-day average. The CDPH said hospitalization rates over the long term are showing a slight uptick in the 14-day average.

If you want to know specific outbreak locations, many county public health officials we spoke with won't tell you, unless they decide it's relevant.

On June 18, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher was asked about the locations of recent community outbreaks. In response to the question, Fletcher said, "When we think that there is a danger to the public, then we will share a location. If there's something specific that the public needs to know, then we will, of course, do that.

"But, to arbitrarily do that can undermine the confidence of people to cooperate with our contact racing investigations and would ultimately be more negative to our ability to slow the spread of coronavirus, then it would be positive," said Fletcher. "I understand the curiosity, and I understand the desire to know, but ultimately we have to make decisions we think in totality will balance out, giving us the best ability to confront the public health challenges that we face."

Just north of San Diego County, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is taking a different approach.

The county's COVID-19 website shares information about nursing homes and homeless shelters that meet certain positive test criteria. It also includes locations such as workplaces and food and retail stores that have met certain positive test criteria.

ABC 10News Reporter Adam Racusin checked with several counties in California on their policies for releasing information about specific locations to the public and whether or not they share information like Los Angeles County.

A spokesperson for the County of Santa Barbara said, "We do not list this information for the public. At this point, our Disease Control Team has determined that there is no added value to sharing this information as our contact tracers do a very thorough job. In the past, we've listed locations for communicable illnesses like measles, but COVID-19 has not proven to be infectious in the same way at this point in time."

In San Luis Obispo County a spokesperson for public health wrote, "Our County Public Health Department does not plan to release specific details about the locations of businesses, gatherings and events (including protests) that may be connected with a cluster of cases, especially if those details could potentially be used to identify individuals involved. We may release general information, if we feel it will protect the health and safety of our community."

"For instance, if we think there is a potential for wider exposure that may lead members of the public to believe that they were exposed or at higher risk. The only exception to this policy is that we HAVE released when a case, or cases have been linked to a residential care facility as those are known places where disease transmission is both common and serious due to the residential nature of the location and the fragility of the people living there," the spokesperson said.

"We are working diligently to trace contacts and identify any and all individuals who may be connected to known cases, and their personal privacy is a priority," the spokesperson said.

"At this time, due to the stance outlined above, I don't anticipate that we would move to a listing like what LA County has adopted, but I will share this website with our team for future consideration," the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Kern County told us "No, this information is not available. If there is a relevant community exposure, the community is alerted. Our contact tracers identify all close contacts to a case, and we notify those close contacts that they need to quarantine."

While not everyone agrees on what information can or should be shared, businesses continue to open, and more people are out and about.