August 1, 2020 Letters
Contact Tracing & Lawyers
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, health-care experts stress the need for contact tracing to help combat the spread. Most, if not all, experts agree that contact tracing, a core disease-control measure employed by local and state health personnel to track and monitor contacts of infected people, is a proven tool in fighting the outbreak. The CDC is actively encouraging communities of people to come together and work collaboratively across public and private agencies to help stop the transmission of COVID-19.
Time is of the essence and there is an urgent need for more contact tracers. But the task is challenging. Difficulties arise when it comes to effective training and recruiting the high-number of tracers needed to keep pace with the spreading virus. The tracers can’t keep up with the infection rate; they are being outpaced. More tracers are needed, which means more money and more training. The snowball just keeps growing.
That’s where we, as lawyers, come in. Lawyers are uniquely qualified to contact trace. Most of us already practice HIPAA compliance in our daily work. We are entrusted by the law to maintain confidences. We are trained inquisitors.
Arguably, our legal obligation of confidentiality produces a more-trusted contact tracer. People who are being traced seek anonymity. They include illegal immigrants, for example, who may be more willing to provide a lawyer with the requested information than they would a government tracer.
Florida lawyers, as part of their pro bono obligation, should be encouraged to train and volunteer their time as contact tracers. They can join existing local and state teams who can direct their training and participation. This is best accomplished with the support and encouragement of The Florida Bar, in coordination with local, state, and government health officials. Local bar associations may also provide this encouragement and act as liaisons between the community tracing groups and volunteer lawyers.
It’s time for the legal community to step up and be active participants in the fight against COVID-19.
Carlos M. Llorente