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Spokane health district apologizes for disclosing COVID-19 patient data to school district

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 21, 2020

Spokane Regional Health District Building.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Spokane Regional Health District Building. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The Spokane Regional Health District has admitted to an unauthorized release of personal health information of people confirmed to have COVID-19.

The accidental release was made to a school district, and officials are confident the data will not be released or passed along further.

School district administrators and nursing staff members working for the Educational Service District 101, which serves northeastern Washington, were sent the wrong spreadsheet by the health district on Sept. 8, Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz said Monday.

The spreadsheet contained a list of individuals with COVID-19 test results, including their names, birthdays, addresses, phone numbers and places of employment. It was not intended to be shared with ESD 101.

Lutz said only a few people opened the spreadsheet before it was retracted by the health district. Lutz told reporters Monday morning that ESD 101 has assured the health district they will not disclose any of that information.

“They abide by the same precautions with patient confidentiality, so they assured us that they would not disclose that information,” Lutz said .

Lutz added the health district is adding additional security precautions including password protection on certain documents. He said that only selected health district staff, such as epidemiologists and investigators, have access to that data to begin with.

Those Spokane County residents impacted by the unauthorized data release have been notified by the health district.

No social security numbers or financial information are included in the dataset sent to ESD 101 by mistake.

The health district is investigating the incident, said Amelia Clark, health district administrator, in a news release.

“We are very sorry to have accidentally released confidential information to a partner agency,” Clark said. “We are confident that this agency shares our concern and commitment to safeguard your personal information, yet we will work diligently to ensure that it does not happen again.”

Arielle Dreher can be reached at (509) 459-5467 or at arielled@spokesman.com


Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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