What hospitals can and can't share about employees testing positive for coronavirus

As more people get tested for the coronavirus, hospitals and employers should be cautious about what information they are disclosing if the person tests positive, according to Politico's March 13 Morning eHealth newsletter.

"If you don't share information, and something bad happens as a result of it, that's a problem. If you do share, and you violate a privacy rule, that's potentially a problem," said Kirk Nahra, chair of WilmerHale's cybersecurity and privacy group, to Politico.

Employers are recommended to send out generate emails stating that an employee has contracted COVID-19. However, they should not identify the individual who has tested positive. Labor laws require businesses to create safe work environments, which has caused many in recent days to self-isolate if a coworker shows symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19.

For hospitals and health systems, HHS' Office for Civil Rights says that coronavirus disclosures should be limited, with only the "minimum necessary" information being shared. The Americans with Disabilities Act states that employees must keep applicants' and employees' medial information confidential.

Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allows employers to ask workers about travel or symptoms in certain circumstances, it's unclear whether the employer can disclose the reported health status to other employees.

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