One state lawmaker and several health care advocates attended a public hearing by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) on Wednesday to protest a series of proposed rule changes surrounding reporting requirements for COVID-19.
ADPH previously announced the proposed rule change and scheduled the public comment portion. Many in the state swiftly took umbrage with the proposed rules as they continue implementing mandatory COVID reporting requirements for many deemed at higher risk.
The new rule removes many CDC-required mandatory reporting requirements for medical professionals from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the rule would retain portions requiring mandatory reporting of positive and suspected cases of COVID for those in "congregate living facilities." The rule shortens the mandatory reporting requirement for specific individuals from five days to three.
Congregate living facilities are defined as a "facility where persons reside and share common spaces with other residents, and "can include, but are not limited to, residential care facilities, assisted living facilities, intermediate care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, jails, prisons, shelters, mental health facilities, dormitories, and resident summer camps."
The proposed rule drew the skeptical eye of the Alabama-based medical advocacy group Health Freedom Alabama (HFA). HFA speculated that the rule will allow for the continued monitoring and tracking of Alabamians.
"We saw the horrifying repercussions of constant COVID testing reports over the past several years," HFA said in a statement. "The state health bureaucrats slammed us with daily numbers and manipulated the 'data' to keep our state under lockdown, which killed jobs, shut businesses, ended careers, closed churches, shuttered schools, masked our kids and isolated our loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes."
Dr. Burnestine Taylor, the medical officer for disease control and prevention with ADPH, spoke in favor of the rule change, saying it would "improve the timeliness of reporting, provide clarification, remove antiquated references and allow the department to better serve and protect the public."
"These amendments will also support public health efforts to monitor disease trends, detect and respond to outbreaks and advance molecular detection to help reduce the spread of disease," Taylor said.
State Rep. Ernie Yarbrough (R-Trinity) also attended the meeting, speaking in opposition to the rule change on behalf of his constituency. Yarbrough began by stating that he, like many people, began following "drastic and unnecessary" COVID protocols at the beginning of the pandemic, only to later become aware that "things were not as they seemed."
"It has been said that trust is future expectations based on past performance, Yarbrough said. "The hard reality is that the people of Alabama and of our nation largely do not trust our government, our health departments, CDC's Anthony Fauci's or health directors. If we are willing to be honest, that is because that lack of trust has been earned."
The rule states that "Reports shall include, at a minimum: the name of the disease or health condition; the name, date of birth, sex, ethnicity, race, address, and phone number(s) of the person having said disease or health condition; the date of onset, date of laboratory result, and/or date of diagnosis of said disease or health condition; and name, phone number, and the facility affiliated with the reporter." The reporting data has made some skeptical of the personal information that could be shared with the state government.
"How COVID was handled is a perfect example of why citizens are very hesitant to allow the government access to personal data," Yarbrough continued. "Data manipulation to justify the destruction of liberty and freedom and the making of economic war on the middle class and small business is not a theory. It has been a reality of the people of this state and of this nation."
"If trust is indeed future expectations based on past performance, there are far too many factors at the state, federal and international level to reasonably assure any Alabamians that continuing to collect COVID data does not pave the road for future abuses of power. We have been abused. Serious measures are taken to protect abused people. Serious restrictions are put on abusers in every level of life, and for good reason."
"COVID data reporting ought to be entirely eliminated from the state collection of data. And I am here to formally request that this path be pursued as a far better option. That direction. That way, to serve the people of Alabama. It is time we trust God and we the people with their own data, and their own ability to navigate COVID-related challenges. Because the people, and their relationship with their personal doctors, are the best and most Constitutional team to navigate these challenges." Yarbrough concluded.
HFA co-director Stephanie Durnin also spoke in opposition to the rule change, calling for the termination of all COVID reporting for all Alabamians. She also joined several growing voices in calling out the State Health Officer Scott Harris, demanding that his position become one appointed by the governor after appointment by the Senate.
"Keeping tens of thousands of Alabamians under the surveillance of ADPH because they live in college dorms or attend summer camps, live in Greek fraternities or sorority houses, need help for a time at a shelter or with mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment, is unconscionable, and it must stop. Our precious family members living in assisted living or nursing homes do not need to repeat what they have endured the last several years. A loss of freedom for one is a loss of freedom for all. And make no mistake, making COVID a required notification for those living in those congregate living facilities is an absolute atrocity. It needs to end now."
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email [email protected].
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.