The coronavirus is a new-century problem, and it keeps getting entangled in old-century thinking.
It’s eviscerating notions like for-profit healthcare, free-market solutions and personal freedom as weighed against personal responsibility, just as surely as it’s wiping out hospital beds and our backstock of PPE.
And then there’s the issue of privacy when it comes to medical records. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act commonly referred to as HIPAA — itself a relic of the late 20th Century, passed in 1996 — guarantees confidentiality between a patient and healthcare provider, except under certain circumstances. NC DHHS has been citing the North Carolina Reportable Disease Confidentiality statute to justify not releasing information about infections specific to location .
But some transparency is allowable by law — and, as we’re seeing now, can often be in the public interest.
A move by the governor’s office on Monday acknowledged the futility of trying to obfuscate pertinent data in the age of the coronavirus.
We in the media knew, through anecdote and hard reporting, that senior homes, managed-care residences and other “congregate living” facilities — filled almost exclusively with vulnerable cohorts: seniors and hands-on staff — were hotspots of coronavirus infection and, most of us extrapolated, a driving source of NC’s COVID-19 deaths. NC Public Radio and a few other state news outlets threatened to sue for more information, which broke the
On Monday, DHHS released the first real report on these ongoing outbreaks, including an itemized list of congregate living facilities that will be updated twice a week. There are more than 70 facilities on the list.
Currently, Guilford County has four places on the list:
- Verra Springs at Heritage Greens — 5 cases, no deaths
- Clapp’s Nursing Center — 6 cases, no deaths
- Camden Health & Rehab — 6 cases, no deaths
- Rudd Strawberry Farm — 8 cases, no deaths.
Rudd Farm is classified as a congregate living facility because it has on-site housing for workers.
There are no Forsyth County facilities on the list.
Let’s remember how important it has become to trace the source of people’s infection. And then let’s look at the state’s definition of an outbreak, which is two or more new, confirmed COVID-19 cases emanating from the facility.
And just as the teams working to stop the spread of coronavirus in our state need to know when and where an outbreak occurs, so too do the people, who can then act accordingly.
For now, we’re only hearing about outbreaks in congregate living settings. But we need to know more. We need to know about outbreaks in manufacturing facilities, distribution centers and other large-scale workplaces.
One day, we’ll need to properly memorialize the victims of this pandemic, even as we prepare for the next one using the things we’ve learned this time around.
It would be nice to remember their names.