House leader, state police group point to state data breach over vaccine mandates – Ontario Argus Observer


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ONTARIO — Oregon’s House and Senate Republicans and State Police Officers group say that confidential information regarding state employees’ personal health information that was sent on Monday to some media outlets by the state is “a significant breach of confidentiality.”

The Oregon State Police Officers’ Association in a news release on Tuesday stated that with the disclosure “our worst nightmare has been realized.”

The association states that it has been trying to negotiate on behalf of its members with the state over the executive order mandating state employees, as well as those tied to health care and education, be vaccinated for COVID-19 by Oct. 18, have an exemption against doing so or lose their job with the likelihood of not being eligible for unemployment.

“To date, the State has been recalcitrant at best to address the concerns of our members,” who are concerned about the disclosure of their personal medical and religious information.

The release of information was despite ongoing requests about where the information would be stored and who would have access to it, according to the association.

“Apparently, the State felt it was appropriate to allow the DAS public relations director access to sensitive personnel information,” reads the release. “One wonders who else has access. The data breach is one more example of the State’s failure to take into consideration the concerns of its employees.”

The association is asking the state to identify who received the information and to take steps to retrieve it, and has sent a letter to two news associations, the Oregonian and Statesman Journal, who are said to have received it, and asking them to delete it from their files.

The association states that it has filed a grievance and is is “exploring other legal remedies.”

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod, said that he has opposed the overreach since the day Gov. Kate Brown announced it.

“Government should never coerce people into having medical procedures let alone keep track of this information,” he said. “It proves to Oregonians they should not trust the government with their private health information or with this much power over their day-to-day lives.

He said the impacts of Brown’s vaccine mandate are proving to be severe with staffin shortages across the state in essential services.

“Now, citizens must worry if their private medical history will become public. … Oregonians deserve better.”

In a letter to Katy Coba, the COO and director of Department of Administrative Services, House Republican Leader Christine Drazan is seeking answers to three questions. These regard the current handling policies in the employee manual for handling of confidential data — including private health information — and who all has access to that information, why an external relations director had confidential employee information on their computer, and what specific changes are planned to ensure it never happens again.

“You have a duty to protect confidential information,” she wrote.

Oregon State Police late Tuesday afternoon released its own information regarding compliance with the vaccination mandate. It states that there are 1,267 employees that fell within the scope of Gov. Kate Brown’s Executive Order 21-29. Of those, 78% have even fully vaccinated, 15% are exemptions which have been approved as of Oct. 18, 7% are exemptions awaiting approval, and less than 1% are on protected leave status, such as military leave or state or federal family leave.

OSP states that 11 employees — 10 sworn members and one staff member — have been placed on administrative leave for not complying on time, and that the agency is working with those valued employees to determine the next steps.

Additionally, it was noted that four employees — two sworn members and two professional staff — resigned, citing the mandate as causal.

According to the State of Oregon’s website, the Department of Administrative Services was designated by the Legislature in 2005 as the “single point of accountability” for information for the state.

There have been no news releases regarding a security breach of confidential information from the agency, which cites that agencies are responsible for protecting confidential assets from loss or misuse.

According to DAS’ FAQ on vaccine verification process for employees, data collected included names, dates of birth, type of vaccines given, date or dates given, lot number and name or location of health-care provider or site where the vaccine was administered. It also states that vaccination documentation is kept in a confidential medical file, separate from an employee’s personnel file.

It further states that vaccination details were being stored in a special Level 3 Restricted area, that is “separate and highly secured, only viewable by you and the roles responsible for managing the Vaccine Mandate requirements.” Furthermore it states that an employee’s vaccination status is confidential medical information under the ADA and that personally identifiable medical information is not subject to a public records request.

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