Discussions about ‘opening’ up the economy and society are happening in earnest in a few countries at the moment. A friend of mine is a professor at a university where they are considering testing all the students and staff to try to open up on campus courses. Some businesses are considering testing employees as they come back to work. It is unclear in these situations if the testing will be everyday, every week, or just a one off.
It is also unclear if testing is now becoming a requirement for employment. Can an employee refuse to be tested at still come back to work? Or can s/he decide not to come back to work? Will these choices result in job loss or discrimination?
Or do universities and businesses open up, test everyone, and then ‘lock’ everyone in? Create a walled garden in which there is freedom of movement but you can’t go past the wall? Some would say a jail of sorts. I don’t think this is the intent or the future we want.
There is no easy answer. People want to learn. People want to work. Making ‘being COVID free’ a requirement for participation makes a lot of sense given its highly contagious nature. However, does it set a precedent for asking health status questions as a means for employment? Does it begin to open the door to asking about other health conditions? What is private and what is not? Does this introduce more stigma or isolation to those who have COVID? Does it unconsciously communicate the person who contracts COVID is to blame for it?
If we do this, do we have a sunset clause and plan in place? Have we articulated when we will stop this requirement?
Introducing health status as participation or employment requirement is quite easy to do in these times, deciding when it is no longer relevant is much harder. Agreeing on what the triggers are and how to monitor them is hard work.
Do the hard work.