Our local Health Department (Foothills Health District) has decided to let businesses and organizations self identify if they have a Covid-19 situation. (click link here) Most people feel that this is not serving in the best interest of the general public and if officials will not inform the public of a potential health threat then we must do it ourselves.
Rumors and social media posts are increasing daily primarily due to the lack of information available to the general public concerning this virus. People are afraid, businesses are afraid. Fear is dominating the landscape right now. Everyone is trying to learn how to deal with this virus, however concealing it from employees and customers is not the way to do it.
We have a huge problem here with large groups of people believing this virus will not affect them. They go to work, see their friends, and feel terribly inconvenienced that everything “fun” is closed. Then we have the people who have tried to self quarantine and follow all the guidelines but they are missing their families and friends and do not see the numbers supporting the need for isolation. Again part of this problem is the lack of transparency about where all cases have been found ,and when found, what is being done about it.
Wal-Mart and Lowe’s continue to have large crowds of people every day. Social media has reported that Wal-Mart has had a positive employee who had to be transported by EMS from the store. An email has been sent to the store for confirmation of this. No media release or statement has been seen from the store concerning this. Did they close that section? Did they quarantine and test everyone connected with the employee? Did they notify the public who may have come in contact with that employee unknowingly? Did it even happen at all? Hopefully they will answer those questions. Meanwhile who is protecting the employees and the public who are shopping at that store every day?
The Health Department (Foothills Health District) states that they contact anyone whom the affected positive patient has been in direct contact with but how does that apply to people they might not know? This should be considered the responsibility of Karen Powell, Director of Foothills Health Services. Are they trying to protect the public or the businesses? HIPAA laws do state that the patient’s identity must be protected and no one is trying to deny that but it does not say that a business has a right to privacy in a health care emergency such as Covid-19.
Now let’s discuss patient’s rights concerning this. A nursing home or home health patient and their families have a right to know if an employee or the facility has a positive case of Covid-19 and how the facility is addressing it. They need to know if they or their loved one is at an increased risk. Not to put blame on the institution or staff member but to be more vigilant about their health and who they come in contact with.
There also is the matter of trust. You trust healthcare professionals to take care of you and to protect you. You trust that they will do “the right thing” when it comes to your health or the health of a loved one. The fear of this virus is great but the fear of those around you hiding it is even greater. Lost trust is often not regained.
Another case that was brought to my attention directly was an incident at Ingles in Forest City. An employee working in the gas station was diagnosed positive but then later an employee in the Deli was tested and confirmed positive. Ingles has never made a public comment concerning this and neither has Ms. Powell.
The Deli employee quarantined herself and the Health Department contacted the contacts she told them about however no one discussed testing with her coworkers who worked in the same area. According to this employee no one in management even told them about it. It got back to them from the family of the coworker.
This long-time employee of Ingles went to management because two other employees who were tested (per their statements to the employee) were at the store and not self quarantining while awaiting results. The employee was told by management that there was nothing to worry about because the positive Deli employee caught the virus outside the store so they would all be fine. She continued to insist that they were not fine and possible positives were working every day there at which point she was told to “mind her own business” by management and if she was so concerned she could take time off.
This employee stated she had to work to keep her insurance. She was told to sign a paper stating she would wear a mask and keep working. She stated that the Deli was not cleaned after the positive was identified, the food previously prepared was not removed, and nothing was done to sanitize the area beside routine cleaning. She contacted “211” who informed her this was not their concern and that she needed to call the labor department (they did give her a number to call click link here.)
This woman is terrified that she has been exposed and that her employer did nothing about it and might possibly fire her over contacting someone. She is also worried about her co-workers and the people who shop there. Is this the way a business should handle a situation like this? Ingles corporate and the Forest City store General Manager have been emailed about this particular situation and I am awaiting a reply.
All they had to do is let the public know they had a positive case, have the Health Department come in and talk with all the employees in that department and have testing available, and quarantine everyone in the department for two weeks or until negative test results came back. This would have reassured the public and the employees of their concern not only for their safety but for the community at large.
Last night Rutherford County Schools issued a media release informing the public of a positive case in their food delivery system and how they have responded to it. Their transparency is exactly what the community needs at this time. They realize that we are all partnered together in defeating this virus and knowledge is power. Hopefully other institutions and businesses will follow their lead and realize that being an advocate will garner much more positive response than being an adversary.
The people of Rutherford County are a hardworking compassionate group of people who understand that this virus is one we all must fight together. The key word here is “together.” They will remember who stood shoulder to shoulder with them in this fight and who tried to hide things from them.
Let’s curtail social media posting with rumors and misinformation by having businesses and institutions being transparent and upfront about what is happening and what we are doing about it together as a community. In dealing with Covid-19 we are all truly our brother’s keeper. #infoisimportant
If you have any information about a Covid-19 situation at a business or institution that you would like investigated please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org (all communications are confidential)
*This article is a personal observation and does not reflect the position of RC Catalyst in any way.