Benjamin Franklin once said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Have we reached the point where we are sacrificing too much of our personal privacy in the name of Covid? I submit that we have when the government mandates the creation of a database containing information about medical procedures that its citizens have undergone.
As everyone knows, Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order requiring certain state employees to be vaccinated and has required them to provide documentation confirming their compliance. This is not a commentary on the propriety of vaccine mandates or requiring verification. From my perspective, the governor walked a reasonable line in requiring either a vaccination or permitting an employee to alternatively choose to get weekly Covid testing. I will leave it to others to debate whether the order should have been issued at all.
Instead, this article is about the manner in which the governor has ordered such verification.
Pursuant to the Governor’s order, each state agency is required to maintain copies of any documentation confirming each employees’ compliance and “must make available for inspection by [among other agencies] the State Department of Administrative Services any documentation required to confirm compliance with the Order, upon request.” According to an email sent out by the Governor’s Chief of Staff, Josh Geballe , any employee who has failed to upload their required medical record to a website designated by the state by midnight on Sunday is subject to “separation from state service,” or in laymen’s terms, being fired. It is this requirement that should concern everyone in the State of Connecticut.
Through the governor’s order he is requiring individuals to give up their right to privacy relating to medical procedures that they have had, in consultation with their own doctor, in the name of public health. No person should be required to physically create an electronic version of their personal medical records and upload them to a website for the government to access whenever it pleases. In doing so, the governor’s office is mandating that each person give up any protection they have under federal HIPAA laws because those laws do not apply to disclosures that are made by individual patients.
There may very well be a benefit to, at the very least, ease the mind of every citizen of Connecticut to know that every time they go into a state building to conduct business, each employee they encounter has either been vaccinated or has received a negative Covid test every week. But this task can be accomplished in a variety of ways without requiring the creation of a database for the government to peruse. Once we permit the government to order the creation of a database filled with the medical records of personal medical procedures that people have undergone in the name of public health, where does it stop?
There have been calls to declare abortion a public health crisis and the “largest single preventable cause of loss of human life.” Would we ever stand for a government database of every woman who has ever had an abortion?
While the governor’s order in this case may not affect many individuals, it sets a dangerous precedent for the future. I fear that once we, as citizens of Connecticut, accept the idea that the government can require people to give up their privacy and create a database housing medical records pertaining to the personal and private choices that they make in consultation with their own individual doctor, government has overstepped.
I ask again, when has government gone too far in the name of Covid?
Rocco Chiarenza is a resident of Newington.