|Submitted||Oct. 11, 2020|
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To Whom It May Concern:
Pursuant to the Maryland Public Information Act, I hereby request the following records:
I am requesting a list of the names of all Montgomery County schools (both public and private) that have reported positive cases of COVID-19, along with the total number of cases reported at each of those schools. The information I am requesting should not contain any personally identifiable information (and any such information should be redacted), only numbers reported by the schools. For background information, the data I am requesting is discussed in the article "Maryland schools will have to report any coronavirus cases — but health officials don’t plan to publicize the data", which can be found here: https://www.baltimoresun.com/education/bs-pr-md-schools-coronavirus-data-20201005-20201009-3zwydnjpqjhbfemnblepumy3ii-story.html.
The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.
In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.
Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 10 calendar days, as the statute requires.
Open Justice Baltimore
November 3rd, 2020
Open Justice Baltimore
RE: Public Information Act Request, October 12, 2020
Dear Ms. Walford:
The Montgomery County Health Department received your request, dated October 12, 2020, under the Public Information Act, Md. Code Ann., General Provisions Article ("GP") §§ 4-101-4-601, for "a list of "all Montgomery County schools (both public and private) that have reported positive cases of COVID-19, along with the total number of cases reported at each of those schools."
The information you seek is not releasable, pursuant to GP § 4-301, which provides that "a custodian shall deny inspection of a public record or any portion of a public record if... the inspection would be contrary to a State statute [or] a federal statute or a regulation that is issued under the statute and has the force of law..." Surveillance data in the possession of local health departments is collected pursuant to Md. Code Ann., Health-General ("HG") §§ 18-201, 202, and 205 and COMAR 10.06.01.03 - .06. Reports made under those authorities and any information collected in connection with those reports are confidential and not open to public inspection. See HG §§ 18-201(c), 202(d), and 205(h) and COMAR 10.06.01.05. Additionally, some information in the possession of the Montgomery County Health Department regarding cases of COVID-19 in schools may also be protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99), a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.
Moreover, the Montgomery County Health Department does not have aggregate data in the form that you request. Such information is in the possession of the Maryland Department of Health, and the law may allow the Maryland Secretary of Health to release certain aggregate data if he determines that such release is necessary. "The Secretary may prepare and disseminate non-individually identifiable information about one or more cases of a condition or disease based on any report received under this section, for any purpose consistent with the Secretary's lawful duties as authorized by an act of the Maryland General Assembly." Md. Code, Health- Gen., 18-201(c)(3).
Pursuant to GP §4-203(c)(1)(i)4, I must inform you of all remedies available for review. You may seek direct judicial review under GP § 4-362. You may also refer any concerns about this decision to Lisa Kershner, the Public Access Ombudsman pursuant to GP § 4-1B-01 et seq. Ms. Kershner may be reached at email@example.com or at 410-576-7037.
Tosan Tutse-Tonwe MBA, PMP, CSSBB
Risk Management and Policy
Dept. of Health and Human Services
7th Floor; 401 Hungerford Dr.
NOTICE: All information in this communication and its attachments are confidential and are intended solely for addressee(s) included above and may be legally privileged. Please take notice that any use, reproduction or dissemination of this transmission by parties other than the intended recipient(s) is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please immediately notify the sender by reply e-mail or phone and delete this message and its attachments.
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