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Apr
4
2020
Court: City first responders to receive limited info on infected persons

City of Yuma first responders will receive information that can help protect them from exposure to infection, a court has ruled.

In an emergency hearing on Friday, April 3, Yuma County Superior Court Presiding Judge David Haws ordered the Yuma County Public Health Department to disclose to City of Yuma first responders, information of persons in Yuma County exposed or confirmed infected with COVID-19.

The emergency hearing was requested by the City of Yuma City Attorney’s Office, on behalf of Police Chief Susan Smith and Fire Chief Steve Irr, in an application for Emergency Protective Order filed in Yuma County Superior Court on Wednesday, April 1. The application sought an emergency order from the court requiring disclosure of information on persons testing positive for, or presumed to have been exposed to, COVID-19.

The emergency protective order will restrict the release of infection data to City of Yuma first responders who are prohibited by federal laws from further disclosure of infection information beyond protecting first responders. This protected information will not be provided to the public. 

The City filed for the Emergency Protective Order after numerous requests over a 10-day period. “We believe this information is crucial to ensure City of Yuma first responders are able to protect against unnecessary exposures and to avoid accelerating the spread of COVID-19 through the ranks of first responders, their families and the community at large,” said Yuma City Administrator Philip Rodriguez. 

According to Yuma Fire Chief Steve Irr, “The disclosure of the requested information is authorized under federal law and is a necessary measure to protect the lives of our first responders and their family and co-workers.” Yuma Police Chief Susan Smith said the request to the Yuma County Health District is “absolutely essential for the protection of our officers and for our ability to continue to serve the residents and visitors of the City of Yuma.”  During this unprecedented crisis both chiefs agree that this will allow the City’s first responders and Yuma County health officials to work cooperatively to protect the Yuma community.

Assistant City Attorney Joseph Estes, who represented the City’s position before Judge Haws, remarked “the Court understood the extraordinary circumstances confronting our critical first-responder workforce.  The judge’s order should protect the information, protect the Health Department’s concerns, protect the City’s emergency medical personnel and police officers, and, most importantly, help to protect the public from this invisible enemy.”

Mayor Douglas Nicholls extended his gratitude to Judge Haws, stating, “On behalf of the City, I just want to say thank you, Judge Haws, for standing with the first responders and public health officials in resolving this matter quickly and effectively.”  Mayor Nicholls then added, “Once this social distancing is over, I look forward to shaking hands.”

Mayor Nicholls also reminded everyone to maintain social distancing, wash hands frequently, and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.  “Yuma is doing everything it can, and we need everyone to do their part to flatten the rate of infection.”

For more information on COVID-19 and how to protect yourself and others, visit https://www.cdc.gov or https://www.azdhs.gov.