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story.lead_photo.caption According to the Callaway County Health Department, the county is back under 100 active COVID-19 cases. As of Thursday, active cases stood at 79. In total, the county has seen 692 cases of the disease since March 18.

Central Missouri Newspapers Inc. is offering this article free to all readers because it includes information important to public safety and health in our community.

A month after the Callaway County Health Department agreed to share Fulton-specific COVID-19 data, Fulton officials will begin posting that information on social media.

The decision follows an inquiry by the Fulton Sun this week about why those numbers still weren't publicly available.

"After some discussion with (Director of Administration) Bill Johnson, we feel comfortable sharing that info," Mayor Lowe Cannell wrote in an email Wednesday. "Starting (Thursday), whenever we get updated numbers, we will be posting them on the city website as well as Facebook."

Currently, the CCHD shares the city's number of active cases, excluding cases at the Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center and the two colleges (all of which share their own numbers online).

Visit the city's website at fultonmo.org and its Facebook page at bit.ly/3jqZHMo.

Cannell said the city had initial figured that if the CCHD had wanted that data shared publicly, the CCHD would share it themselves.

"The intent for wanting that data was to help the council decide when/if to enact a mask ordinance," he explained. "I think we assumed that the county would share that information to the general public; however, they've just been giving that directly to the city. We are grateful for that and (felt) that if the health department wants that information to go out to the general public that it would be more appropriate coming from them."

But, as CCHD Director Sharon Lynch said during a Kiwanis meeting earlier this month — at which multiple attendees requested city-by-city breakdowns of COVID-19 cases — the CCHD didn't feel it was their place to distribute the Fulton data through the CallawayCOVID19.com site it maintains.

"The state Department of Health (and Senior Services) told me to give it to (Fulton city government)," she said. "That's not my information to share publicly."

Her hesitation is still over medical information privacy law HIPAA. Lynch maintains that as written, the law should prevent her from sharing city-specific information about active cases, because someone could hypothetically use that information to narrow down which residents have COVID-19.

"When I asked the (DHSS) to send me an email telling me it's okay to do this, they wouldn't," Lynch said. "Just because someone's doing something doesn't mean I should necessarily do it."

As a governmental entity, Fulton is not bound by HIPAA, which applies to health care providers.

Cannell said the city is currently receiving an update on its active COVID-19 numbers approximately every other week.

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