PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Arizona’s Family has teamed up with several other Phoenix news organizations in suing the Arizona Department of Health Services to get information about COVID-19 in our long-term health care facilities.

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The media outlets filed a joint action in Maricopa County Superior Court today to get the names and locations of facilities where patients have contracted the coronavirus.

Longtime First Amendment attorney David Bodney represents the group, which includes the Arizona Republic, 12 News, and ABC15.

While Arizona’s Family has repeatedly requested information about COVID-19 cases and deaths at long-term health care from AZDHS, the agency has refused to release it, saying that to do so would break state law. AZDHS reportedly has hired outside counsel to handle the lawsuit. Their position is that making such information public would make it difficult for AZDHS “to control outbreaks of communicable diseases” by having a “chilling effect on reporting.” Arizona’s Family received an official denial letter to release the information on Tuesday. 

Although AZDHS has not been forthcoming with information about COVID-19 in Arizona’s long-term care facilities, sources, including patients’ families and even some facilities themselves, have confirmed coronavirus outbreaks to media outlets.

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On Friday, Arizona’s Family reported that 40 residents of the Desert Cove Senior Living facility in Chandler had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Four of them had died and seven were in the hospital. The remaining 29 were isolated and receiving care at the facility. More than a dozen staff members also tested positive.

Two other nearby facilities – Pennington Gardens and Avenir Memory – have also reported residents with COVID-19. Thirteen people died at Pennington Gardens. Another 15 tested positive.

Data released by Maricopa County indicates at the majority of COVID-19 deaths are in Phoenix and the surrounding cities – there is a total of 175 reported deaths in Maricopa County. As of Tuesday morning 116 of the deaths were residents of long-term care facilities. In addition, other states have released the information Arizona’s Family and the other media outlets want in an effort to protect both the residents and their communities.

AARP supports the release of the names and location of facilities that have seen outbreaks, but Dr. Cara Christ, the director of AZDHS, says the information is protected by health privacy laws.


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