Constitutional rights and healthcare privacy concerns with the City of North Port’s new color coded health status bracelet policy
Hi, I’m Debbie McDowell the Mayor of the amazing City of North Port. Before I go any further, just to be on the safe side, I must make a little disclaimer … this is solely my point of view and NOT the views of my fellow commissioners, charter officers or staff.
On Monday, May 11 a new protocol will go into effect for all City employees. The protocol requires all employees to submit to a daily health screen as we re-open city hall. This health screen requires a temperature check and verbal answers to a questionnaire. A different colored wristband will be issued each day that must be worn throughout the day to prove successfully passing the health screen. If anyone is caught not wearing the wristband, they will immediately be reported to their supervisor. Masks must be worn when social distancing is not practical. Advisory #5, was instituted by the City Manager, Peter Lear.
Up until now, the City Manager has been following Federal and State mandates. NOWHERE is this new protocol mandated. The Commission has no say on how the City Manager manages his employees. They are his employees. However, I am in a unique position. I am a city employee and yes, I am subjected to this new policy. If I do not submit, then I should not be allowed to enter the building. BUT …. the City Manager nor his staff can require me to submit to this policy. HOWEVER …. my code of ethics will not allow me to receive a special privilege (a free pass from the health screen that others are required to follow).
Some of you may be asking, what’s the harm to submit to a simple temperature being taken? What’s the harm? I have to ask when does it stop! NOBODY is “safe” from anything 100% of the time. NOBODY. WHY are we doing this? HOW does a healthscreen protect anyone? I have a core belief this is wrong on so many levels. Yes, the City Manager already knows my thoughts on the subject.
The City has hired the best and most competent staff. We trust them to make operate expensive equipment, made million-dollar decisions, interact with our citizens and everything inbetween — Every. Single. Day. With that said, this new policy is implying our competent staff is really NOT all that competent if they are unable to determine if they’re sick. I am mature enough to know when I’m sick, I certainly don’t need a “trained employee’s” confirmation. We are in a new day. Covid-19 has taught us, it is wrong to go to work sick. On a side note — for the past two months staff, vendors, tenants and myself have been entering and interacting at city hall — NOW we have to have our temps taken. Where was the concern for everyone’s well-being the past two months?
For an employer, in this case a government entity, to take anyone’s temperature is a complete invasion of personal privacy. I believe it goes against the 4th amendment. The 4th amendment gives citizens the right “to be secure in their PERSONS, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable search and seizures and SHALL not be violated … but upon probable cause…” There is no proof that taking a temperature will protect anyone from anything. A health screen will not prevent COVID19 or any other virus, from entering city hall either. NOBODY is “safe” from anything 100% of the time. NOBODY.
Low grade fevers are caused for a multitude of reasons – bacterial infection, heat exhaustion, inflammatory conditions, ovulation, pregnancy, tumors, stress, certain medications and yes a virus. This health screen will become part of a city record, stored somewhere, for anyone to see, with no guarantee of privacy or confidentiality. If that isn’t an invasion of privacy, I don’t know what is. My healthcare is between me and my doctor, NOT MY EMPLOYER. and definately not a “trained employee”. I have zero expectation of confidentiality when I am standing in formation, waiting to be awarded the wristband to prove I can enter City Hall. The reality is, this policy is subjecting staff to possible undo stress and embarrassment if they don’t pass because their low-grade fever is actually caused by taking lifesaving medication. I wouldn’t want to explain my private health conditions to my peers, who is NOT medically trained. Would you?
In my opinion, this policy is a nothing more than a dog and pony show. It is a disguised attempt to protect our well-being and give a false sense of security. The Commission had nothing to do with this decision; IF this was a commission decision you can be assured it would have received a “HELL NO” vote from me! I am disappointed our employees must endure these new protocols.
I don’t have a crystal ball to see how this will all play out. However, I must follow my core values, protect what I believe is my constitutional rights and preserve the confidentiality of my healthcare information.