People’s infatuation and demand to know details about people who tested positive for COVID-19 shows exactly why those details should be kept private.
This is a time when trust in Brazoria County’s leadership and health department — who have repeatedly proved themselves to be extremely competent — is extremely important. It is their duty to keep everyone as safe as possible and they will appropriately use their power to do so.
In other counties, including Lubbock, officials have released information regarding where a patient ate after traveling, feeling symptoms and being advised to go straight home. This is an appropriate situation to reveal information, since the patient did not follow explicit guidelines and being symptomatic made them more contagious.
Brazoria County has not been put in this situation. The health department is investigating each case and contacting appropriate parties that could be affected, which is a responsible method. It is not their duty to release where a patient works, where they’ve eaten or shopped and what they’ve been up to for the past two weeks.
This would only publicly humiliate the people who are not at fault for getting sick.
Everyone should be acting as if they have been exposed anyway, by official advice. This means everyone should follow CDC guidelines of staying home unless absolutely necessary, handwashing often and practicing good hygiene.
This makes where the confirmed patients worked, played and ate irrelevant. Staying home is the most effective way to stop from spreading the virus, infecting vulnerable members of society and overwhelming hospitals.
Not only would releasing personal details about COVID-19 patients subject them to ridicule and possible harassment, it would be illegal under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which became law in 1996.
Among many other restrictions, HIPAA leaves it up to each person to decide who they would like to disclose their medical information to — and more importantly, who they don’t want.
While many celebrities and athletes have shared their diagnoses on social media, no one is under any obligation to do so. Brazoria County residents should be able to recover in peace, without judgment or castigation for catching a highly contagious virus.