Rockville retirement community;
officials continue to withhold
details on patient movements
Maryland and Montgomery County officials continue to hide critical information about the possible spread of coronavirus in the jurisdiction from an increasingly-frustrated and worried public. Neither government will give even the general location of the supposedly-quarantined patients in the County, much less specific businesses or locations where they may have exposed others to covid-19 in recent weeks.
Gov. Larry Hogan did say that all three patients were on a cruise in Egypt, on a ship widely identified across worldwide media as the A Sara. A number of cases in Houston have been linked to the same cruise, where the ship's crew has reportedly been infected as well.
The information about other cases from the same cruise that is now surfacing is likely the only reason that detail has now been made public by the governor. Hogan also mentioned that one of the three patients exposed about 100 people at a February 28 event at the Village of Rockville retirement community. The Maryland Department of Health said the following:
"persons who attended this event should check their temperature twice a day and notify their health care provider and local health department if their temperature is greater than 100.4 or they develop a respiratory illness. They should remain at home until they receive instructions about next steps from their health care provider or local health department. Members of the public who have questions about this information are encouraged to call the Maryland Emergency Management Agency call center at 410-517-3720. The call center is available until midnight tonight and from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday."
The lack of information at the state and county level is presenting a further danger to the public. People who were in contact with the coronavirus patients may be unwittingly exposing vulnerable members of the public, such as senior citizens or those with compromised immune or respiratory systems, to the virus rather than keeping social distance if not isolating themselves. Ironically, the identities of the patients are more likely to become public thanks to the coverup, as many amateur sleuths are now attempting to track down the information officials are withholding.
Nobody cares about the specific names and addresses of the patients; they simply want to know if they've been exposed, or what places they should avoid for the time being. Instead of protecting privacy, the unusual secrecy is only generating more wild speculation online.
Misinformation is dangerous in a potential pandemic. Those who are setting themselves up as trusted sources of reliable information undercut that position when they make false statements for political, rather than medical, reasons.
Federal experts telling people to stop buying masks because they "won't reduce your chances of catching the virus" immediately lost all credibility. Not only do properly-worn masks reduce your chance of catching coronavirus, but if they didn't, why would we need to save them for healthcare providers? Clearly, they help those healthcare providers avoid catching and spreading coronavirus, flu and other diseases. Don't blame the public trying to protect themselves and their families for government's failure to prepare for a pandemic.
Photo via U.S. Food & Drug Administration