Opinion: County shouldn’t keep Covid death statistics a secret


Daily Post Editor

San Mateo County’s leaders have made little progress in stemming the spread of Covid-19 in East Palo Alto and North Fair Oaks, with the exception of holding one vaccination clinic.

But the county is doing an exceptional job of keeping the public in the dark about the extent of this crisis.

On Jan. 2, the Post reported that East Palo Alto had 9,158 Covid cases per 100,000, compared to 1,265 for Palo Alto — a 7-to-1 ratio.

That’s the number of cases, but how many people have died per city?

The county is keeping that information secret for some reason.

When we asked for those numbers, the county’s lawyers told us they were prohibited from releasing them because of HIPAA, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

We pointed out that we weren’t asking for anything that would identify individuals, we were just seeking numbers for entire cities. That wouldn’t violate HIPPA.

Still, we got the brush-off.

Interestingly, the county’s lawyers didn’t cite a specific section in HIPPA releasing city-by-city numbers would violate. That’s because there isn’t one.
They just said “HIPPA” in order to top us from asking.

You’d think that the county supervisors — particularly Warren Slocum, the supervisor who represents EPA and North Fair Oaks — would be pounding the table, demanding the release of these numbers in order to focus public attention on this serious health problem.

But instead it’s the same old story out of San Mateo County — don’t make waves, keep the controversies out of the news. Who cares how many people died?

Deaths may be public information elsewhere in California, but not here. Particularly if they might show what a poor job the county is doing protecting the poor.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is [email protected].


  1. I’m on the side of patient privacy, but I don’t see how somebody’s privacy is breeched by giving a total number of deaths in a city. I’d like to hear the county’s explanation.

  2. “Deaths may be public information elsewhere in California, but not here.”
    Are deaths listed by CITY anywhere else in California, or only by county?

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