A group of lawmakers recently sent a letter to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) relating to continued state reporting of 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-19 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) and State Rep. Ernie Yarbrough (R-Trinity). At a public hearing last month, Yarbrough joined representatives from HFA and other concerned citizens to oppose the rule change.

Recently, Yarbrough and other lawmakers signed a letter further opposing the proposed rule change,

"The last several years have been incredibly hard on Alabamians, and much troubling information has come to light regarding the COVID pandemic that will probably merit honest and thorough investigation for years to come," the letter says. "Many Alabamians had their jobs, careers, health, and freedoms destroyed or greatly undermined simply for asking questions or doing what they believe best for their own health and families. Individuals and small business took the brunt of the fear tactics and overreach by federal and state agencies."

The letter was signed by Yarbrough, along with State Reps. Ben Harrison (R-Cartwright), Rick Rehm (R-Dothan), Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City), Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs), Bill Lamb (R–Tuscaloosa), Ritchie Whorton (R-Owens Cross Roads) and State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur).

The lawmakers also pointed to an attempted ADPH rule change in 2020 that would have eliminated public hearings before the agency passes new regulations.

"Trust is future expectations based on past performance," the letter continued. "The collection and manipulation of data in the COVID pandemic is a perfect example of why Americans – and Alabamians – are hesitant to relinquish personal data to government entities. The previous proposed rule change by the ADPH – to eliminate the required public hearings for proposed rule changes – further eroded public trust as it clearly communicates a desire to avoid transparency."

"We must show trust in our people – and their relationship with their personal doctors - to make the right decisions for their own health and personal information. At this point, moving forward with continued COVID data collection as outlined in the proposed rule change will only further erode remaining public trust and will draw the attention and fixed purpose of the people and their legislative representation to address these issues."

An ADPH spokesperson previously told 1819 News that HFA's claims are completely false, and the rule is meant to drop the majority of reporting requirements from the CDC.

ADPH said the new rule is simply rolling back previously mandated CDC reporting requirements, and the state only wants to maintain mandatory COVID reporting for higher-risk populations.

Despite ADPH's claims, HFA and the group of lawmakers maintain that the information collected by the state is intrusive and dangerous.

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