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HIPAA wasn't meant for this

Susan Estrich on

HIPAA was a great law for its time. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects the privacy of your personal medical records. You don't have to tell anyone about underlying diseases. That's your business, not theirs. For years, it has protected Americans with AIDS and cancer and everything else from discrimination, private or official.

Now it is leaving us vulnerable to COVID-19 carriers who don't tell us their names.

How are you supposed to know if you had any interaction with the guy from the other elevator bank if you don't know who he is?

After he interviewed Rita Wilson, an Australian journalist decided to be tested and was found to be positive. But Wilson and Tom Hanks had publicly disclosed that they have the virus.

They opted in. They went public. They did the right thing.

Right now, HIPAA is making it impossible to know whether you have been in contact with an infected person and, in turn, whether you may be infecting a high-risk loved one. Universal testing would tell you, but we are almost as far from that as we are from a vaccine.

 

A few celebrities have come out. Otherwise, we know that an American Airlines pilot who was based at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport has tested positive. DFW is the airline hub. Without knowing what flights he flew, how do you know if he was the guy who used the toilet right before you? Millions of people flew when he flew out of Dallas.

The way China suppressed the virus outside of Wuhan was by not only enforcing social distancing and mandatory masks and protective gear for everyone but also tracking people's movement. Take a look at this video, filmed for the He Zhimeng YouTube channel last week, of a city that has stopped the virus: https://youtu.be/YfsdJGj3-jM.

You scan a QR code when you go to McDonald's, when you get on a bus, when you enter a new neighborhood. An app tells you exactly where the closest cases are to you at all times. Your temperature is taken at work, and you record all your movements.

That is how the virus is controlled in China. That is what worked, and what continues to work, and what may have to remain in place until a vaccination can be found.

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Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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