COVID-19: Transparency will be important for public safety

Though two cases of COVID-19, or coronavirus, have been identified in Pennsylvania, residents of the state’s western counties know they have little immediate cause for concern. That is because Gov. Tom Wolf, in revealing the information Friday, noted the two cases are in Delaware and Wayne counties.

Let us hope that if COVID-19 comes to West Virginia — and it probably will — our governor is similarly transparent. To date, public health officials have not been as informative as Wolf.

Mountain State officials have not confirmed an active case of COVID-19, but a number of people here and in Ohio are being watched.

As of Saturday, West Virginia has arranged to test five residents for COVID-19, of which two have been returned as negative and three are pending.

Monday, Ohio announced its first confirmed cases of new coronavirus when three people tested positive in Cuyahoga County.

Of course, there is an enormous difference between monitoring people who may — or may not — have been infected by the virus and revealing where COVID-19 patients live. Again, it is to be hoped that if the virus actually is found in our state, more specific geographic information will be provided.

Knowing how near to us the disease has come allows residents to step up precautions against contracting it. That is simple common sense.

Too often, however, public health officials refuse to disclose even rough geographic information about serious health hazards. They claim that is to protect patients’ identities — but telling us where a disease has struck without disclosing patients’ names or addresses is no threat to privacy.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Wolf did the right thing for their Ohio and Pennsylvania constituents. Gov. Jim Justice should emulate him, if the situation in our states becomes more threatening.


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