HARRISBURG – A pair of bills that would improve reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Pennsylvania are on their way to the Governor for enactment, according to Senator Doug Mastriano (R-33), who supported the measures. Both bills received bipartisan support in the Senate and House.
“Transparency and accountability have been huge issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, mostly because the administration has refused to work with the General Assembly in addressing those ongoing concerns,” said Mastriano. “These legislative measures will ensure that transparency and accountability are paramount during a health crisis. Pennsylvanians deserve nothing less.”
As part of Senate Bill 1110, first responders will know of any confirmed COVID-19 cases at addresses to which they are called for emergencies. The measure requires the state Dept. of Health and local health agencies to notify 911 centers of the address of any known positive case of a communicable and transmissible disease. Overall, the requirement would only apply to diseases that are the subject of an Emergency Disaster proclamation by the Governor.
The legislation would ensure the information is provided to law enforcement officers, emergency personnel, medical examiners and coroners when they are called to carry out an essential job function at the address. The info may only be used by those specifically authorized to access it and can only be shared up to 60 days after the expiration or termination of the disaster emergency.
Senate Bill 1164 would ensure that county coroners are notified of all suspected deaths in their jurisdiction caused by this virus and other contagious diseases that constitute a health emergency. State law requires county coroners to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding any death – including those due to contagious disease – except in cases of death by natural causes.
However, many coroners are not being notified of suspected COVID-19 deaths in hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities because the Health Department is interpreting the law differently. Mastriano noted there have been discrepancies between the number of COVID-19 deaths reported by the Health Department, and the number reported by county coroners, creating confusion. The bill would eliminate inconsistencies in how COVID deaths are being reported.