Deaths from coronavirus need disclosed

People of Iowa were not delivered a favor by their state leaderships’ two-week delay in reporting that a child “who was under the age of 5” had succumbed to COVID-19.

Actually, the delay was much longer — thus, unconscionable.

Within the parameters of the 2003 federal law that established privacy standards to protect patients’ medical records and other health information, the important fact that the coronavirus had claimed a life so young needed to be disclosed much more quickly than the “official” timetable officials chose.

During much of the battle against the coronavirus up to now, the belief had persisted that young children were not as vulnerable to the disease as older children and adults. However, the Iowa death added fodder to the suspicion that very young children might be more vulnerable than once believed, and might actually be able to spread the disease.

Iowans, as well as people everywhere else, including here, had a right to be apprised, without delay, that such a case existed, so parents would have felt compelled to implement more stringent safeguards to protect their young children.

However, Iowa health officials opted not to deliver the necessary message urging caution — an irresponsible choice.

The child died due to complications from the virus in June. The Iowa Department of Public Health concluded its investigation of the death on Aug. 6, but the death wasn’t reported in the state’s COVID-19 statistics until Aug. 22 — an irresponsible delay, considering everything at stake for families everywhere.

Outside of those dates, officials need to “open up” truthfully about when they actually determined beyond a reasonable doubt that COVID-19 caused the child’s death.

All considered, it is reasonable to believe that the public never will have access to that important fact, as officials hide behind the 17-year-old federal law — HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which went into effect in April 2003 — to try to justify their delayed dissemination of the relevant information.

The officials in question could have been transparent without violating HIPAA’s provisions.

There probably are many Southern Alleghenies residents, especially Blair County residents, harboring the opinion that the Lutheran Home at Hollidaysburg was remiss in not being more open about the prevalence of the coronavirus in that facility. A front-page Mirror article on Thursday dealt with a report from the home that 52 residents and staff members had tested positive for

COVID-19 since July 31.

However, the span of time between July 31 and Wednesday was 26 days; two months or more passed before Iowa’s terrible secret was a secret no longer.

As the Wall Street Journal reported in an April 10 article, 12 days before the Iowa child’s cause of death was disclosed, “several factors contributed to the initial thinking that children were less affected by COVID-19. The virus might not have spread among many children during the early months, in part because schools were closed, playgrounds were locked up and kids were at home.”

Now schools are opening, albeit in limited ways, and parents are living in justifiable worry over what might or might not occur during the coming weeks and months.

College students are being warned to stop partying in an effort to halt the virus, but COVID-19 has laid out daunting possibilities even for the youngest of children.

Important facts regarding the coronavirus should not be kept under wraps, even for a day.


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