AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) commends Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s decision this morning to protect the privacy of people who have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus (COVID-19). President Preckwinkle vetoed the SAFE with First Responders resolution, which if enacted, would have permitted the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) to share the addresses of people diagnosed with COVID-19 with first responders. Although the resolution was titled “The Resolution to Share Addresses for Emergencies (SAFE) with First Responders,” the measure would not have created a safer environment for first responders. The decision from President Preckwinkle to veto this resolution protects the private health information of every Cook County resident.
Alongside other community members and organizations, AFC publicly opposed the SAFE with First Responders resolution. In a letter addressed to the Cook County Commissioners backing the resolution, AFC noted the resolution would result in harm to community in three ways: creating a false sense of security for first responders; deterring people from seeking care; and violating the civil liberties of Cook County residents. The resolution – which passed narrowly last week – would not have benefited the public and had the potential to create further disparities in care and the impact of the pandemic.
As longtime advocates of the HIV community, AFC has seen the tangible harm done when medical diagnoses are used as justification to encroach on civil liberties, including the criminalization of entire communities. People living with HIV are still combating the decades of stigma that have only been exacerbated by criminalization efforts. Furthermore, we have already seen the disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Black and Latinx communities locally and nationally. The resolution invited a new metric of fear, only serving to augment the deadly harm that Black and Latinx communities experience based on assumptions and stereotypes.
In a statement accompanying her first-ever veto, President Preckwinkle stated the resolution “violates the public health guidance provided by health experts, discredits the guidance provided by both [the Illinois Department of Public Health] and CCDPH, puts COVID-19 patients and county residents at risk and provides our first responders with a false sense of security.” She further expressed her disappointment in last week’s vote, stating that she “cannot support the release of this information.”
AFC appreciates President Preckwinkle’s stance in support of safe communities throughout Cook County and looks forward to ongoing efforts to maintain public trust while combating the COVID-19 pandemic.