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Rep. Giddings, Helen

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Giddings Passes First Responder Protection Bill out of House  print page

by: Rep. Giddings, Helen
05/20/2015

Austin - Late Thursday night, Representative Helen Giddings (Dallas), with only three hours until the last Texas House deadline to hear House bills, passed HB 2646 to engrossment. This bill will help protect the brave first responders throughout Texas by permitting very limited disclosure about whether the physical location they have been dispatched to is currently being monitored for a communicable disease by state or local health authorities.

In 2014, three Ebola cases were confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Dallas, Texas. Ebola is a communicable disease that spreads by direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. During this time, Dallas County Health and Human Services monitored about 100 people and one animal for 21 days after their direct or indirect contact with a confirmed Ebola patient. However, neither Dallas County Health and Human Services, nor the incident command center that was set up in the area to coordinate all of the stakeholders involved, were authorized by state law to release any monitoring information to first responders. HB 2646 would correct this oversight, should anything like this ever happen again. "I commend Dallas County for addressing the Ebola situation with the tools they had," Giddings added, "and if this measure had been in place then, they could have protected even more people."

Giddings explained, "It is absolutely imperative that first responders be given at least the minimum necessary information about communicable disease monitoring - whether or not a state of emergency has been declared - to ensure that first responders are adequately prepared for an interaction with a person at a location currently being monitored for a communicable disease." The first responders would not receive any personal identifying information about a person being monitored, only the physical location and the communicable disease being monitored, and as a safeguard, this information is removed from the dispatch system immediately after the monitoring period is over.

"HB 2646 will allow our first responders to take the necessary and proper precautions, whether it is with supplies or suiting up with appropriate protective clothing, to avoid an unnecessary risk of exposure to a communicable disease," said Giddings.

On Friday, May 15th, Representative Giddings passed HB 2646 out of the Texas House with a record vote of 121 to 6. This bill will be heard in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services this Wednesday, May 20th.

Representative Helen Giddings proudly serves the cities of House District 109: Dallas, DeSoto, Cedar Hill, Glenn Heights Hutchins, Lancaster, Wilmer, as well as part of Duncanville.

Contact: Elaina Fowler

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