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Mayo Clinic is prepared in case employees test positive for COVID-19

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A Mayo Clinic employee wearing protective clothing walks to meet a patient at the drive-thru testing site Wednesday at the Mayo Family Clinic Northwest. (Ken Klotzbach / kklotzbach@postbulletin.com)
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Patient privacy still stands amid widespread concern about the COVID-19 pandemic.

That holds true even if the state’s largest employer and health care provider that treats the sickest patients finds one of its staffers tests positive for COVID-19.

The Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information, or HIPAA Privacy Rule, prevents the release of most patient data.

So, would Mayo Clinic release information to the public, if one of its 34,000 Rochester employees tested positive?

"No, all information would be released through public health authorities, as it has been to date. Mayo Clinic collaborates with public health authorities, including, as necessary, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state and local health authorities. These public health entities are best positioned to provide relevant and appropriate information to the public," Mayo Clinic's Ginger Plumbo wrote on Sunday.

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She added that Mayo Clinic is prepared if an employee tests positive.

"Years of careful planning have gone into Mayo Clinic’s emergency response plan. We have a strong team supporting treatment policies and strategies to respond to evolving circumstances," she wrote.

Mayo Clinic also recently announced new patient visitor limitations to help reduce the spread of the virus.

Johns Hopkins Hospital, a medical peer of Mayo Clinic in Baltimore, announced on Friday that one of its employees tested positive. It did not identify the patient, the patient’s gender, or what their job was at the hospital. All patients and co-workers who were in contact with the infected provider were directed to self-quarantine.

Would Mayo Clinic notify other employees of a co-worker testing positive?

"If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, and if they have been at work and had close contact (per current CDC and MDH definitions), then yes, those co-workers would be notified that they may have been exposed, may need to be tested, and may need to self-isolate," Plumbo wrote. "Every effort would be made to protect the identity of their co-worker with a positive test, and we are asking employees to respect the privacy of their co-workers as they would patients, because our employees often are Mayo Clinic patients."

Having an employee test positive for COVID-19 could impact how Mayo Clinic manages its staff.

"Mayo Clinic is prepared to move designated staff to teleworking, and as always, staff are asked to not come to work if ill," she wrote.

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