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Should Institutions Disclose the Names of Employees with Covid-19?

Abstract: Prestigious University is a large, private educational institution with a medical school, a university hospital, a law school, and graduate and undergraduate colleges all on a single campus. In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, students were told during spring break to return to campus only briefly to retrieve their belongings. Classes then went online. On March 23, 2020, the faculty, students, and staff were emailed the following by the university’s director of infection control and public health:

We have become aware that a Prestigious University staff member has tested positive for the virus that causes Covid-19. The individual, who was last on campus on March 16, is now in isolation at their permanent residence and is doing well clinically. The university has already identified those members of our community who may have been in close contact with this individual, and we are working to notify them. Further, this individual’s local health department has a protocol for identifying people who have been in direct contact with anyone testing positive for Covid-19 (such as this Prestigious University staff member) so that they can self-quarantine and watch for COVID-19 symptoms for a period of 14 days from their last contact with the infected individual.

A professor in the Philosophy Department has asked the ethicists at the medical school whether such contact tracing suffices. “Don’t the members of the community deserve to know who this is? Isn’t there a mandate to identify this person in order to maximize public health benefits and slow the spread of this deadly virus?”

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