Withheld details on coronavirus in Arizona care facilities critical to public safety, lawyer says

Letting the Arizona Department of Health Services withhold information about COVID-19 cases elevates the financial interests of long-term-care facilities above the public’s right to know — and protect itself — the attorney for state news outlets told a judge Wednesday.

David Bodney asked Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury to rule that the state health agency is picking and choosing what information it wants to release and to whom. And that’s not permitted by the state Public Records Law, Bodney said.

The records being sought — the number of cases at COVID-19 at each of the facilities — are not public, said Craig Morgan, the attorney representing the department, and Cara Christ, its director. There are specific state statutes prohibiting the release of any information gathered by the health department as a result of “enhanced surveillance” orders like the one Christ issued to deal with the pandemic, Morgan said.

Beyond that, Morgan argued that there are privacy issues that in a “balancing test” could outweigh the public’s need for the information. (Read more)