Not even a global pandemic can put a stop to Angelo Cataldi’s fake outrage routine.
I thought Angelo might change up his approach during a health crisis, but today he decided to tweet this out:
Now that we know that two Sixer players tested positive for the coronavirus, is it asking too much to know which players? What’s more important, privacy or public health? Does Joel Embiid — who was closest to virus victim Christian Wood — have it? We need to know.
— Angelo Cataldi (@AngeloCataldi) March 23, 2020
Alright, I’ll bite.
There’s actually a reasonable question buried in there, a question about privacy vs. public health. But first, some background information:
I was told, via a source, that the Sixers made contact with ushers and arena personnel who were within close proximity of the players during the most recent game against the Pistons. Those individuals were then informed of the three positive tests as the Sixers did follow-up calls to check on their well-being. With the locker room area and back hallway closed off to media that night, my educated guess is that the only people who came within contact of Sixers players would be those arena workers, plus other Sixers personnel like doctors, the equipment folks, the coaching staff, public relations, etc. Media was barred from the locker room and the only availability that night was with Ben Simmons (pregame) and Elton Brand and Brett Brown (postgame), who were sitting at least ten feet away from us, at a table that was cordoned off.
Friday, Sean Brace, who was the first to report that two Sixers players were among the three positive tests, broached the ‘right to know’ subject with more nuance than his radio counterpart:
“I did not learn any of the players’ names, nor would I put that out there. But it brings up an interesting conversation – we as the public, don’t we have a right to know who these players are? I know the Sixers as an organization are not the only one to not put this out there. But there are other players that will remain nameless across the league. The most important thing we can do is to just stay away from anybody who has a possibility of being infected at this point in time, and if you did come across player A or player X, shouldn’t you go get tested?”
Of course we’re beholden to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which passed in 1996 and includes a privacy rule protecting the disclosure of health information. For example, if you go to Temple Hospital for the removal of a cyst, that’s information that only you and your doctor are privy to. The doc needs your consent to release that information, which illustrates why athletes’ injury and rehab situations are often hard to write about. We don’t have access to protected medical information like Markelle Fultz’s shoulder scans or Joel Embiid’s Navicular bone X-rays. We’re speaking with coaches and general managers, who are trying to deliver information that was passed to them via the public relations staff and/or team doctors.
The question, then, is whether the Coronavirus crisis changes our stance on HIPAA. Legally, it can’t, since the law is the law (with some gray areas), but you do see a lot of information being volunteered with altruism in mind. Tom Hanks, for example, could have gone into isolation without saying squat, but informed the entire world of his positive test. Idris Elba came out and did the same thing, and the thinking here goes something like this:
“Oh shit, I met Idris Elba last week and shook his hand, I should probably go and get tested.”
You would also assume that somebody who tested positive would inform family, friends, or anybody they came into contact with them in order to provide a heads up. That’s the “greater good” idea and Angelo and Sean are alluding to.
And that seems to be what the Sixers are doing here, within legal limits. It’s not pertinent to know which players specifically have the Coronavirus. That’s private information. But the team went out and called up the people who may have been in contact with the players who do have the virus, as a matter of due diligence and responsibility. That seems like the best middle ground case we can ask for.
If athletes want to reveal personal health information, that’s their prerogative. It’s not our call, but the Sixers taking the extra step to inform at-risk people should, hopefully, assuage the concerns of crabby radio hosts.