New York County to subpoena people who refuse to talk to contact tracers

Rockland County in New York has begun to issue subpoenas to people that refuse to talk to contact tracers working in the county, with a $2,000 fine levied on people for each day they don’t respond to it. 

The county’s health commissioner, Patricia Rupert, said the supoenas were issued to eight people who attended a party in Clarkson, New York outside of New York City. The person who threw the party had symptoms for the coronavirus but still held the party, and eight people were subsequently infected.

“We are not receiving the necessary cooperation when we contact those who are positive for COVID-19 or those who had been at some of these gatherings,” Rupert said. “My staff has been told that a person does not wish to or have to speak to my disease investigators. They hang up, they deny being at the party, even though we have found their name from another party attendee, or a parent provides us with the information.”

“Many do not answer their cell phones and do not call back,” Rupert added as a justification for why she thinks subpoenas have become necessary.

“Forced to” issue subpoenas

“Unfortunately I am now forced by these circumstances to send subpoenas to the individuals who are required to cooperate with us,” Rupert said. “Failure to comply will be costly: $2,000 per day.”

A number of states have hired thousands of contact tracers in the attempt to see where new cases of coronavirus are coming from and how it is being transmitted, but many people are cautious about giving information to people they don’t know and who represent a government that they may not trust.

Public health officials around the country have reported problems in getting people to talk to contact tracers, and have said that the interviews are necessary to help them figure out the source of new infections and how they are spreading.

Contact tracers are trained to protect the privacy of the individuals they talk to. The source of any infection is not revealed by the tracer, but it’s not unusual for people to be worried about that happening.

“Both intrusive and callous”

“When you get a random call with someone affiliated with the public health school and she knows personal information about you, but is missing crucial information, that can seem both intrusive and callous,” one contact tracer in Connecticut said about the process, ABC reported.

As cases around the country spike in a number of different areas, it can be important for people who have been exposed to someone with the virus to know that fact and have the opportunity to protect their loved ones until they know whether they will get it, too.

I’m just not sure I’m comfortable with fining or otherwise punishing people who choose not to be part of the process and want to opt out.

As with so many things, I believe people should have the maximum amount of choices about their behavior and that forcing them to give up personal information is something that should not happen in America.

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