When “out of control” things happen to people they will turn to any source to seek knowledge. Fear is a powerful motivator and the obvious fact that many things are being hidden from them about a situation makes people not only afraid but also angry. This current situation with Covid-19 is definitely one of those “out of control” things.
Granted this disease is new and there are no set responses to it but this type of situation itself (pandemic) has been reviewed many times over. Taking care of the general public and not overtaxing our medical resources were the primary goals to start with. Government officials set about to isolate as many people as possible to slow the spread of this disease by using “stay at home” orders so they could try to track and study the process of Covid-19. However they selectively left “essential” businesses open without proper direction as to how to protect themselves and the public. This created a huge disconnect in the general population as to the seriousness of the situation. If things were so bad then why were people allowed unrestricted access to these businesses without protection of any sort?
Question after question begin to appear in everyone’s minds. Numbers of people infected, where the local origin was, and what was being done to try to contain the spread? Officials who knew these answers were silent to the public. That being the case people rushed in to fill the void with rumors and innuendo. Social media reports ran wild. However, when enough people begin to speak of the same things people noticed. Still there was no acknowledgement by officials concerning these questions.
Now to try to give officials their due I am sure they thought they could contain the outbreak they found and did not want any negative response from the general public towards not only themselves but the group of infected persons they were monitoring. However, keeping the public in the dark concerning this was not the right thing to do. Due to rampant rumors many people felt “safe” from the virus because they did not belong or associate with a particular group. This put everyone’s safety at risk as this had already been shown to be a “community acquired” virus in addition to direct contact.
Officials were responsible for contacting “direct contacts” of known infected persons and accessing them for testing as well as informing them of quarantine requirements. The problem with this virus however is that infected persons can be asymptomatic so if not a “primary” contact they were not evaluated or quarantined even though they may have been exposed to the virus. People who were not told to quarantine and had no symptoms continued to go about their normal activities. This unfortunately appeared to spread the virus to even more people.
Finding the origin of this local infection and trying to contain it would require some draconian measures for sure, but with proper support could have been done. It wasn’t. The reason now is irrelevant and forensics can be done once life returns to “normal.” (or as far as normal can be) However, continuing to hide direct knowledge of events from the public is creating a “knowledge void” that social media has been quick to fill.
County officials are beginning to come around. Graphs and charts have been released giving numbers and stats daily, however, protecting the public over protecting businesses seems to be an issue. Using HIPAA to withhold information about public places of business is not acceptable. HIPAA is designed to protect the individual. No one is asking for an individual’s name or address. No one would fault using HIPPA if a business had less than three employees therefore making a situation public would possibility expose them personally.
However, when Ingle’s, Walmart, Lowe’s, or other essential places of business that large amounts of people frequent has a positive case then that is a public concern. When a Home Health Care agency has employees with positive cases it is a public concern. I am sure these (Health Dept.) people contacted all direct contact persons they could find but this is now a “community acquired” viral situation so ALL persons should be aware that there has been a positive case with employees.
Not everyone records or even remembers everywhere they have been and even knows everyone they may have been within six feet of at any given time. Saying that this virus is “everywhere” IS the appropriate way to deal with it. However, knowledge is power. It is the responsible thing to do for an organization (especially a health care organization) when you have a positive case to inform the public.
Recently it has come to my attention from multiple people that two health care organizations here in the county have at least one positive employee. One (unsubstantiated) is Carolina Home Care. The other is Hospice Palliative Care. I do know that Rita Burch told a patient’s family member Tuesday via telephone that no “nurses” tested positive. When this family member called back on Wednesday and specifically asked if all “staff” were negative Ms. Burch became angry and admitted that a CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant) was positive but that she had not worked with the particular family member of this person. This person admonished Ms. Burch for misleading her the day before when she asked. She stated Ms. Burch was quite upset with her.
This is inexcusable. Misleading is awfully close to lying. The family members deserve to know that an employee was found positive, that all clients of the employee had been contacted and tested, and that they were working in conjunction with the Health Department and government officials to continue to provide quality care to their patients.
The time for hiding this is over. Sharing knowledge and information is the only way to effectively fight this. All the public is asking is to be informed. There is no “shame” in having this virus, but there is shame in hiding it. All we (the public) ask is to be included in the process of trying to understand and contain this virus. Stop making this a confrontational issue. We are all in this together and together we can beat it.
*This article is a personal opinion and does not reflect the position of RC Catalyst in any way.