In the past month, most of my colleagues have tested positive for COVID-19 and naturally been absent from work. However, none of this was disclosed in a formal way; not even by our own supervisors…but was rather swept under the rug. Every time someone would ask about a colleague’s COVID status; their closest peer or manager would always say something like: “It’s suspected so”, “She just has a mild fever” or “I don’t know” while awkwardly turning a blind eye.
As a fully-vaccinated hospital associate, I am aware of the policies in place to protect our confidentiality, such as HIPPA and the ADA; yet COVID-19 should not fall under these two.
This highly contagious virus is like no other we have experienced before; and hiding such compromising information is actually harmful rather than litigious. With spiking hospitalizations, infections and death rates; we should have a stronger moral compass in order to perform in a safer professional environment. Nonetheless, this has not been the case…the fine line between morality and legality has been repeatedly breached in the past year, despite the surge in cases due to the new variants. Not only in hospitals are being secretive about their employees’ “COVID status”, but schools and other workplaces in the US are following a similar suit.
People need to understand that HIPPA is an 18-year old policy which wasn’t even around during previous pandemics of the 1900s. Employers have to look at the broader picture and realize that some of us live with the vulnerable and/or the unvaccinated. They should be even more open with those who don’t have tele-working options…at the end of the day we all touch the same door knobs, computers, landlines, etc.
Hiding such key information as a ‘stigmatized secret’, is detrimental to the underlying trust at any given workplace and the the well-being of all employees.
What are your thoughts?