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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLA2020 Racial Justice Movement

Letter to the editor: Implications of COVID-19 contact tracing must be considered carefully

By Hailey Valles

May 27, 2020 5:26 pm

This post was updated May 27 at 6:23 p.m.

This year has presented to our communities a rude disruption to the many conventions we as participants in society have become accustomed to.

The coronavirus pandemic has and will transform social norms and reestablish arbitrary boundaries set for the sake of medical research. Prior to this, the mere thought of tracing folks was an unthinkable and invasive method that violated one’s right to privacy; today, it has become something folks, regardless of one’s political beliefs, have come to believe merits consideration.

The following question comes to mind: Is it appropriate to alter the boundaries of the intervention by tracking one’s daily life for the sake of containment?

Simply stated, yes, now more than ever it is appropriate to take the initiative for containment. However, it is important to note the implications of the actions proposed by UCLA, UC San Francisco and the California Department of Public Health on different communities. UCLA, UCSF and CDPH stress the foundational basis that contact tracing wields in terms of infectious disease control, especially in light of numerous states in the United States slowly starting to return to pre-COVID-19 days. In spite of its necessity, many remain weary of the implications such actions, such as revealing immigration status, may impose on certain demographics post-COVID-19.

Although Susan Philips, an infectious disease specialist at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, emphasizes the lack of inquiry in terms of participants’ immigration statuses, such statements should be repeatedly analyzed and reiterated for the general population to encourage their confidence and comfort with these measures. This is crucial because while folks with documentation do not stand in fear of any harmful repercussions of these actions on their status in the U.S., many will remain hesitant as they worry about both direct and indirect repercussions.

COVID-19 has opened up a can of worms to say the very least. What exactly this means for us as individuals across the world depends on the diverse and specific circumstances we face. For now, only time can tell.

Valles is a second-year microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics student and a campaign coordinator for California Public Interest Research Group Students.

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