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Idaho newspaper plans lawsuit over COVID-19 records denial

| May 31, 2020 8:49 AM

BOISE (AP) — A southwestern Idaho newspaper on Friday said it will file a lawsuit against the state Department of Health and Welfare if the agency doesn’t turn over the names of long-term care facilities in the state with confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 among residents and staff.

The Idaho Statesman, through its attorney, sent a letter to the agency contending the information should be made available under Idaho’s Public Records Act.

The newspaper requested the information in a public records request earlier this month. But the agency denied the request, saying it failed to meet the requirements of the public records law.

The newspaper’s attorney, Debora Grasham, in the letter said the exemptions cited by the agency do not support denying the request.

The newspaper reported that through public records requests to local public health agencies and statements from facility owners it confirmed the names of 14 of 22 facilities.

The newspaper said that those 22 facilities had 273 virus cases and 44 deaths.

Idaho has 2,770 confirmed cases of the virus and 82 deaths, according to a tally Friday by Johns Hopkins University.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.