Virus patients should voluntarily release their names [March 9]. All coronavirus patients who happened to be in multiperson public places during the disease’s incubation period ought to voluntarily allow their names to be released, along with the places and times that they closely interacted with others.

To do otherwise is to selfishly risk the further spread of the contagion.

To be clear, this is not to say that laws protect patient privacy should be violated or changed. The revelation of identity and other information should be voluntary, by the patient, not legally coerced. Still, the interests of public safety and of basic decency should impel (not compel) patients to be fully forthcoming.

Think about it this way: It’s not like catching the virus is a character flaw or something for which someone can be blamed. Nor is it blameworthy to have been in public with it when it remains asymptomatic for so long. Every halfway decent person would direct compassion, not anger, at any coronavirus victim. So why the need for privacy?…

[The full column is at this link.]


College campuses closed too quickly (March 11). Colleges and universities nationwide could be making a big mistake by sending students home from campus because of the coronavirus. They may be making it more likely, not less, that their own students will contract the disease, and also more likely that they will spread it more widely and to populations that are more at risk.

College campuses tend to be semi-closed environments, and they are filled with people who are at an age when they are generally more robust than the general population. College students, of course, don’t spend all of their time on campus, but except for at “commuter colleges,” their lives generally revolve around campus in ways that keep them semi-segregated most of the time.

As such, students are generally less likely to interact with broader populations coming from a wider variety of “walks of life” if campuses remain open than if students are all sent back to their hometowns. They are at least equally likely to contract the virus in their hometowns as they are on campus, if not more. While an outbreak can occur anywhere, the likelihood of affliction is greater the more diverse a population one encounters….

[Please note that the situation was different for colleges whose students already were on spring break. Then it may indeed have made far more sense for the colleges to tell students not to return once they were away already. Also, the considerations in this column apply only to the ramifications for public health. College administrators are indeed caught in a bind due to other issues, such as legal liability, that are not addressed herein. The full column is here.]


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