COCHISE COUNTY — With the county preparing to release “aggregated data” of local coronavirus information with the 10th confirmed COVID-19 case — the ninth confirmed case was announced Monday — some area residents are sure to find interesting facts in the data provided, while others will be left wanting.
Cochise County public information officer Amanda Baillie said Monday the county is prepared to release on its coronavirus-specific web page data that includes “info such as age ranges, gender, hospitalizations, and recoveries etc. (similar to what is already on the ADHS website https://azdhs.gov/preparedness/epidemiology-disease-control/infectious-disease-epidemiology/index.php#novel-coronavirus-home and other county sites such as Maricopa and Pima).”
Despite a fairly loud outcry from some segments of the community for information about specifically where in the county the nine confirmed cases are, county officials say they will continue to withhold that information, citing privacy laws and concern for how the release of that information might cause people to behave.
“Providing a location could lead people to believe they are safer in one area than another — something we have seen play out through hundreds of comments on social media,” Baillie told the Herald/Review via email. “For example, someone commented if they knew cases were in Sierra Vista they would instead start shopping in Benson or Bisbee.
“It would not be helpful for any of our communities, or for the goal to slow community spread, to see an influx of people congregating at their stores because people mistakenly believe they are less likely to contract COVID-19.”
Additionally, Baillie said, “No area of the county is safer than another, especially since we now have community spread, and the advice with regards to prevention remains the same, whether you live next door to a confirmed case or live in another community. There is no benefit in knowing where any cases are.”
Maricopa and Pima counties are both following the same protocol in not releasing specifics about where in the county active cases are recorded, Baillie said.
The county is also concerned about gossip and amateur sleuths, Baillie said, noting that there have been several on social media who claim to know where cases exist and even who those people might be. The county has no interest in perpetuating rumors or identifying actual victims, particularly as medical privacy laws apply.
“Since we live in small communities, and because of comments made on social media from people who think they have more info or think they are in the know, it can be easy for people to piece together information and identify, or think they have identified, a person,” Baillie said.
“We have also seen abusive comments aimed at these individuals and we are not prepared to release any info that may lead to them being identified. We take the privacy of these individuals extremely seriously and this is a policy we will not be changing.”
The county’s web page — https://covid-cochisehealth.hub.arcgis.com/ — is dedicated to local coronavirus issues and contains a number of statistics and other valuable information to locals interested in learning more about the impact of COVID-19. Included among that is information about how many tests have been administered in Cochise County (309), how many positive results (9), and similar statistics for the state, among other information.
Herald/Review Media has submitted an open records request to Cochise County regarding where in the county the active coronavirus cases reside, excluding information about specific addresses or other identifying information.