Wisconsin Businesses Oppose Release of COVID-19 Data

As coronavirus cases in Wisconsin have spiked in recent days, some businesses worry the state’s health department could release the names of establishments that have had employees test positive for the virus.

Manufacturing, restaurant and grocers associations sounded the alarm this week, emailing members and composing response letters. Though a spokeswoman for the state’s top health officials says there are no immediate plans to publicize such a list on its website, the information could still come out through pending records requests.

The associations argue that, rather than boosting transparency, releasing such information publicly would confuse and scare people while stigmatizing businesses that have already suffered because of the pandemic.

Reached Thursday afternoon, Elizabeth Goodsitt, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, gave a qualified answer.

“We have no immediate plans to list businesses with COVID-19 positives on our website,” she said. “However, we are always striving to give Wisconsinites and their communities the information they need to protect themselves from COVID-19.”

Goodsitt said the state has received hundreds of records requests regarding businesses, and that their records custodians and legal team are working through “hundreds of thousands” of documents to redact private or protected information.