Wyoming health director, tech officer quit after data leak - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Wyoming health director, tech officer quit after data leak

Details on the recently restored Wyoming State Capitol building in Cheyenne. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)

May 18, 2021

By MEAD GRUVER Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming’s health director and chief information officer have resigned after a data leak involving the personal information of tens of thousands of people who were tested for the coronavirus.

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A state Department of Health employee working with computer code accidentally released COVID-19 test results, as well as blood alcohol test results going back to 2012, for 164,000 people in late 2020 and early 2021.

The COVID-19 test leak alone affected over one-quarter of Wyoming’s population of 579,000.

Health Director Mike Ceballos will be replaced with Deputy Director Stefan Johansson, while Chief Information Officer Gordon Knopp will be replaced with state Information Services Administrator Timothy Sheehan, both in interim roles, Gov. Mark Gordon announced Tuesday.

“Certainly, we have faced unprecedented challenges. I learned a tremendous amount and found the work to be very rewarding,” Ceballos said by email after his resignation Tuesday.

Ceballos didn’t respond when asked if Gordon requested his resignation and if it was was related to the data leak. Gordon, a Republican, appointed Ceballos, a retired telecommunications executive and unsuccessful 2014 Democratic candidate for state education superintendent, in 2019.

Gordon spokesman Michael Pearlman declined to comment on the reason for the changes, calling it a “personnel matter” that by policy isn’t disclosed to the public.

Knopp didn’t return phone and social media messages seeking comment on why he resigned and when.

A recorded message on the Wyoming technology help line said there was a statewide government network outage Tuesday. A person who answered but declined to be identified said the problem was fixed and “not likely” related to Knopp’s resignation.

A Health Department employee who has not been publicly identified began mishandling the coronavirus and blood alcohol test information as long ago as November. The information became publicly available on GitHub, an internet-based software development platform, as long ago as January, state officials announced in April.

The release of test results, names, addresses, birth dates and other information didn’t stem from any problem with GitHub and it’s not clear if anybody intentionally misused the files.

Public knowledge of the problem nonetheless prompted scammers to call Wyoming residents, apparently at random, in pursuit of insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or other financial information.

The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:

What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.

If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.

Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.

For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email: covid@cnchd.org

  • Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.

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