The City of Ontario has filed a public records request with the County of San Bernardino for information on where confirmed coronavirus cases are occurring.
So far, only countywide data has been released, which puts Ontario and other cities at a disadvantage when it comes to keeping their own communities informed and safe, Ontario officials said.
The request, filed on March 23, seeks the identity of local jurisdictions in which cases have been reported.
“Knowledge is protection,” said Mayor Paul Leon. “Our message of social distancing is more impactful if we all know that the threat is indeed present in our community.”
Patient privacy concerns voiced by the county are misplaced, according to City Manager Scott Ochoa.
“We are not seeking specific identifiers that would divulge protected information under HIPPA,” he said in reference to the federal health information privacy law. “Until and unless folks can confirm that COVID-19 is impacting their community directly, people are apt to lessen their adherence to the State’s stay-at-home orders – especially when neighboring counties are releasing such information.”
On March 14, the City of Ontario (as well as the City of Fontana) declared a local state of emergency in preparation for a potential local spread of COVID-19.
The next day, San Bernardino County reported its first case. As of March 25, a total of 38 cases have been confirmed in the county, but because the data is not separated out by local jurisdiction, Ontario city officials say they are operating at a disadvantage.
The public records request is designed not to infringe on individual privacy but help local officials inform and better respond to their communities, officials said.