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What Are My Obligations if I’m a Doctor Who Is High Risk? | Press "Enter" to skip to content

What Are My Obligations if I’m a Doctor Who Is High Risk?

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I was supposed to have a friend over, but she and her husband were ill, so we rescheduled. Since then she has become very ill with coronavirus-like symptoms. She thinks it’s just the flu but will not see a doctor or explore testing options. Can I move the date again because I do not want to risk infection? The dinner, though casual, is to celebrate my friend’s birthday. Name Withheld

A crisis like this one brings out the ways in which we are all united through a web of connections and thus of mutual responsibilities. In the current circumstances, an untested person with a fever, dry cough or unusual fatigue should assume she’s carrying and shedding the coronavirus and practice self-isolation, as every responsible body of experts has recommended. Even if your friend has the flu, she ought to be concerned to limit its spread. Especially these days, we need to avoid adding to the burden of an already overburdened health care system.

Sadly, a majority of Americans failed to get vaccinated by February, a date well into the flu season. If more had done so, we would have had fewer hospitalizations and more resources at our disposal for this new threat. People who don’t suffer much themselves from such infections can spread them to those who do.

Tell your friend that, as much as you love her, you think she should be keeping herself away from others and that you’re going to delay the dinner until you can both be sure she’s not contagious. She shouldn’t be socializing with anyone, not just not with you. Help her to understand that.

After reading about how there’s a blood shortage as a result of coronavirus, I went to a blood drive. It was the first time I’ve donated in a few years, and I immediately remembered why. I’m a healthy 25-year-old with no medical or lifestyle factors that would prevent me from donating, but the donation process takes about twice as long for me as it does for everyone else. The nurse said my blood flow is weaker than average and that my veins are uniquely hard to find. A nurse had to stay by my side, continually readjusting the needle, while a backlog of donors built up in the waiting area. My guess is that at least two other people could have donated in the time I was there. I know that donating blood is critical, especially during national emergencies, and for all I know, the others could ultimately have been disqualified from donating. Do you think the inconvenience of dealing with me outweighs the good I’m doing? Name Withheld

If the time it takes to collect your pint would really have reduced the amount of blood collected at that site — maybe because the station closed with people still waiting in line — you’d have reason to take a pass. You might have asked the nurse or another blood-drive official about this. But if you only created a minor hassle, well, someone has to have the trickiest veins on a given day. Your donation expressed your desire to contribute to the well-being of others. That’s valuable in itself and something to give at least a little weight to. In these individualist times, we should take the opportunity to remember that, as St. Paul put it, we are “members one of another.” So thank you for responding as you did.

I live in a shared house with three other people. We are all employees or graduate students at the university we graduated from last spring. One of my housemates, with whom I also work, is planning to self-quarantine in our apartment after a vacation to Spain, which she took despite increased warnings about Covid-19 in the media and messages from the university discouraging international travel.


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