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NYC contact tracers are not asking coronavirus-infected people whether they attended protests


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Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

As New York City's contact tracers attempt to track the spread and scope of COVID-19, they are not directly asking infected individuals whether they have attended recent social justice protests that have included thousands of attendees, The City reported.

New York City has hired hundreds of city employees to interview coronavirus-positive individuals about who they may have been in contact with since contracting the virus, but one seemingly obvious question is not being asked. From The City:

The hundreds of contact tracing workers hired by the city under de Blasio's new "test and trace" campaign have been instructed not to ask anyone who's tested positive for COVID-19 whether they recently attended a demonstration, City Hall confirmed to THE CITY.

"No person will be asked proactively if they attended a protest," Avery Cohen, a spokesperson for de Blasio, wrote in an emailed response to questions by THE CITY.

The contact tracers ask more general questions of infected individuals, such as who they live with and who they may have had close contact with (within six feet for 10 minutes or more). In the course of that questioning, people may reveal that they have attended a protest, but they won't be asked directly.

The New York State Department of Health said through a spokesperson that public health officials are trying to balance the need for information with a desire to protect privacy.

"We're working with New York City to balance the public health priority while also protecting personal privacy, as we seek to ensure a thorough contact tracing program that helps us contain the COVID-19 virus and monitor any fluctuations in the infection rate as we continue reopening New York," spokesperson John Bruno told The City.

With mass protests occurring daily across the country while the COVID-19 pandemic is still active, public health experts fear the gatherings could fuel a second wave of the virus. Government leaders have been largely unwilling to discourage the gatherings even though many states still have lockdown rules in place.

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