Just days after the state health department took down localized COVID-19 data, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter provided health officials with a legal basis for making the information public again.
Health department officials said on Monday they could no longer provide the number of coronavirus infections, deaths and recoveries by city and ZIP code, nor any details about infections and deaths at nursing homes across the state. The decision was based on advice from health department attorneys.
Attorneys said because the governor’s authority under the Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act expired last weekend, Gov. Kevin Stitt could no longer waive the state’s health privacy law to allow the data to be released.
On Wednesday, Hunter said while state law prohibits the health department from disclosing personal health information, it can release epidemiological information for statistical purposes in such a way that no person can be identified.
“Releasing the total numbers of each locality, county and statewide demographic data threads the needle of providing up-to-date information to the public while protecting the privacy of Oklahomans,” Hunter said in a press release. “This data is 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.”