We applaud the state for finally taking a brave step forward for public safety.
The names and locations of COVID-19 clusters will begin to be publicly released. While counties previously had the ability to release that information, not all did so. Sometimes information was only released if contact tracers couldn't get hold of everyone who spent time at a certain location.
That’s all over now. According to The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Andrew Bahl, "Under the new policy starting Sept. 9, specifics will be provided if there are five or more active cases associated with a given location. The names of private businesses won’t be disclosed unless there are 20 or more."
The move is partly about schools and colleges going back into session. Parents will surely appreciate the information as they make decisions about how their children learn this fall.
But the move is about more than that. It’s about showing that as cases and deaths mount, we all must act responsibly. If a particular location sees widespread transmission of the virus, something has gone awry — folks aren’t wearing masks, they aren’t separated, or there are simply too many people together for too long a time. We all deserve to know this information as we navigate the minefield of pandemic life.
"With the numbers all going in the wrong direction ... we have to start getting more serious," KDHE Secretary Lee Norman said, according to Bahl. "One of the ways to do this is to provide people the information they need."
Other countries have gone much further. Some use cell phone data to track and identify those who have been near clusters. Contact tracers then call them and urge testing or quarantine. Still other countries have opened facilities where people possibly exposed to the virus can stay for the necessary 14-day period.
In comparison to these tough methods, what Gov. Laura Kelly and Norman unveiled this week was mild. But there will no doubt be those who cast the decision as somehow anti-business or fear mongering.
But COVID-19 is real, and the pandemic continues whether we like it or not. If institutions or locations are allowing easy spread, we need to know. If individuals haven’t acted responsibly and exposed others at a specific time, we need to know.
The virus can be beaten. It can be squelched. But only through knowledge and cooperation.