NYC coronavirus tracers forbidden to ask patients if they attended George Floyd rallies

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The army of COVID-19 tracers in New York City, a one-time epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, has been forbidden to ask anyone testing positive for the disease if they recently attended any demonstrations related to the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd.

And what’s more, the order appears to have come straight from Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office.

Avery Cohen, a spokesman for the mayor, told The City that if people wanted to volunteer information about their participation in recent rallies and demonstrations, they were free to do so. But the COVID-19 tracers were forbidden to ask anyone who tests positive for the disease the question.

Cohen said “no person will be asked proactively if they attended a protest,” adding: “If a person wants to proactively offer that information, there is an opportunity for them to do so.”

According to Townhall, questions that tracers are permitted to ask include whether positive patients live by themselves or with others and who they have come in contact with.

In addition, “other questions specifically look to assess the type of contact an individual may have had with others and where that location might be,” the site reported.

But even though there are growing concerns among many Americans, especially those living in the Big Apple, that the recent demonstrations with their distinct lack of social distancing, are going to lead to massive spikes in positive cases — though that won’t necessarily translate into a large increase in coronavirus hospitalizations.

Interestingly, those concerns have also been expressed by de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — though not specifically about increases in cases due to the protests.

Rather, they are now concerned — angry, even — that New Yorkers who have been pent up for months are ‘violating’ social distancing rules not to riot and burn businesses but to enjoy themselves at one.

“We have received 25,000 complaints of reopening violations. Bars or restaurants that violate the law can lose their liquor license,” Cuomo tweeted over the weekend. “People with open containers in the street can be fined. Police & protesters not wearing masks can be fined. Local gov’t must enforce the law.”

He added: The violation complaints are predominantly from Manhattan & the Hamptons. Lots of violations of social distancing, parties in the street, restaurants and bars ignoring laws. Enforce the law or there will be state action.”

Several people pointed out the hypocrisy of Cuomo’s warning, point out that he did not seem to have similar concerns when massive crowds gathered in recent days to commemorate Floyd.

Cuomo has also been criticized heavily for his order to place coronavirus patients in nursing homes, which many believe contributed to a higher COVID-19 death rate in the state. He eventually quietly rescinded the order, but only after thousands of people living in eldercare facilities had died from the virus.

As for contact tracing in general, the practice is controversial. Many Americans have been reluctant to give tracers too much information over concerns about privacy.

New York tracers, for instance, have discovered that persons who test positive for the disease have been reluctant to give up information about their contacts, according to the mayor’s office.

“Naturally, we have not been able to obtain all information from all positive cases, but engagement among those reached is high,” Cohen told The City.

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Jon Dougherty

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