Editorial

The Need To Know




State college officials had a tough decision to make and we aren’t going to second-guess it.

Faced with the fact that a number of students on state-sanctioned trips overseas were in coronavirus hotspots, they were gathered and flown back to New York. As a precaution, it was decided they would undergo two-week quarantines despite testing negatively. At this point things went a bit awry.

Students were apparently given the option of being quarantined at college dorms that would be made available to them or be released into the custody of their parents.

We don’t know how which dorms were chosen, and that’s part of the problem: Local officials were given only scant details of the plan and the public was kept out of the loop altogether.

What exactly does quarantine mean? Some of the students were going to be released to their parents, we were told. Wouldn’t that expose more people? Wouldn’t the parent then require quarantine?

And what if the youngsters, sequestered in their lonely dorm rooms in the middle of the campus, decided on following the music to the nearby roadhouse? Is there security in place to prevent them? Will they be physically detained? It’s a fair question and assumption that among the 22 young people, there are a few who will test the system.

There seems to be a little too much of the “need to know” philosophy prevalent in the handling of the coronavirus outbreak, and this was but one example. As of this writing, county and state officials wouldn’t even acknowledge there was a patient in Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, even though he was communicating freely with friends and passersby.

To err on the side of caution, and to take an extra measure of prevention, is laudable — but to withhold information means someone has something to hide.

The number of suspected cases will rise exponentially in the coming days, authorities tell us. The number of citizens who may have been exposed will likely rise into the stratosphere. Yet an Indy staffer in the hospital on March 9 was told there aren’t enough test kits to go around and that sick people were being turned away. Staffers complained surgical masks were in short supply.

This has turned into a political issue in some quarters, which is typical of the petty politics that pervades this country of late. It’s not a blame game or a shame game. It’s a crisis and the people are going to be the big losers unless government on every level unites in a concerted, determined effort to keep this thing contained.