HUDSON — The mayor reported the city has eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 and "possibly one death" from the disease, but county health officials said they are not releasing data on the number of cases in each city.
Mayor Craig Shubert reported the number of Hudson cases on his Facebook page on Saturday. In that post, he also wrote, "We are awaiting autopsy results to confirm [whether there was a COVID-19-related death]. Three of the cases are in the same household."
Asked about Shubert’s numbers, Dawn Meyers, assistant public information officer for Summit County Public Health, said her office was not giving out specific municipality data at this time. She said her department has not yet had a discussion on whether ZIP code data in the COVID-19 pandemic will at some point be released.
"We know it’s out there and people are asking for it," said Meyers. "We haven’t come down with any firm decision."
Shubert on Monday declined to identify what he said were his "multiple sources" of information, but noted the data he posted on Saturday was "valid" and "accurate." He also questioned why the city that he leads was not disclosing the specific number of cases in Hudson.
City spokesperson Jody Roberts told the Hub-Times on Monday the city "follows the Summit County Public Health protocol on public health matters?."
The city of Hudson on its Facebook page on Sunday said the municipality "has multiple confirmed cases of coronavirus" and "no reported deaths at this time."
The post also noted the Summit County Public Health Commissioner is "not releasing details about local residents who have COVID-19, including their city of residence."
Shubert explained that he released the information because he felt "residents have a need to know," and added he felt providing the specific data is helpful to citizens.
"It does heighten awareness and make people more cautious," said Shubert. "…I am making sure we are transparent."
Shubert added, "At some point, you have to accept the fact that [COVID-19 is] here… and hunker down."
He urged residents to stay home, practice good personal hygiene and maintain distance from others.
Summit County Public Health Commissioner Donna Skoda recently explained to Gannett why the department is not releasing many details about local residents who have died from COVID-19 -- at least not yet.
Health information is protected by law, she said, and while Ohio can give details statewide, counties are not allowed to provide information that could help the public identify a person who is under investigation for a communicable disease or an individual who tested positive or died from the disease.
There’s always a worry that the person and family could face some backlash from the community, Skoda said.
"When it’s a small number of deaths, you can look at obituaries" and try to figure out who it is with some limited information, she said.
Also, the public often wants to know what specific community the COVID-19 case is in so they can avoid that area, Skoda said. Alternatively, identifying the hometowns of patients could give people "a false of security" that COVID-19 is not in their community.
"COVID-19 is everywhere" Skoda said. "You need to act like ... everybody you’ve ever come in contact with is exposed and potentially a carrier."
Skoda said it is feasible that as the number of deaths in the county rises, and it is no longer as easy for people to identify the person by an obituary or other methods, the health department will be able to provide more information, including gender and whether there were underlying health conditions.
Editor’s note: Akron Beacon Journal Consumer Columnist and Medical Reporter Betty Lin-Fisher contributed to this story.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.