A Hygenist Had Covid. Shouldn’t My Dentist Have Told Me?

The really important thing isn’t whether someone once had the virus but whether everyone in the clinic is taking the appropriate precautions with respect to hygiene and P.P.E. As it happens, people who have recovered from Covid-19 are thought to have immunity to it for some time, and people who have immunity to the virus are less likely to transmit it. So it doesn’t make sense to avoid a hygienist who has recovered. Someone who has never had the disease or has not been vaccinated poses the greater risk. (Though, again, a minimal one given proper precautions.)

The C.D.C. says that someone who has had Covid-19 can be around others if 10 days have elapsed since symptoms began, a full day has elapsed without fever and other symptoms are improving. Although your dentist’s précis was inexact, it sounds as if the office erred on the side of safety and is rigorous about protocols. Your dentist was making the point that there was no clash here between employee privacy and the legitimate concerns of a patient. Possibly, though, I wouldn’t have added that slightly barbed final comment (“If this policy makes you uncomfortable, our office may not be a good fit for you”). Dentists, of all people, should understand the power and prevalence of irrational anxieties, and one element of good medicine is an understanding heart.

I am a college student who spent my break working as an E.M.T. for a private ambulance service. My state’s Covid-19 vaccine protocol prioritizes first responders, and I have the option to receive a shot next week. Given that it can take up to a few weeks for the vaccine to promote antibodies, however, if I get the vaccine now, it won’t protect me until after I’m back at school. My early vaccination provides no benefit to the community, and I could be taking a dose from someone who is at greater risk. Is it wrong for me to get the vaccine knowing that if it weren’t for a few weeks of work, I would be waiting months? Elizabeth Hopkinson, Massachusetts

A fair and reasonable system that isn’t unworkably complicated will end up vaccinating some people earlier than others whose need is greater. It’s not your job to add further criteria of your own. What’s more, the available evidence suggests that significant protection starts to kick in about 10 to 14 days after initial vaccination, which could overlap with your period of work as an E.M.T. And being vaccinated does provide a benefit to your community. It lowers the chance of your transmitting the disease by reducing the likelihood that you’ll contract it and, very likely, by reducing the likelihood that you’ll transmit it even if you do. Adding to the overall vaccination rate, which this does, will be necessary in order to reach something like herd immunity.

An acquaintance asked me to refer him for an open position at my company. Normally, I would be happy to do so, but he mentioned that for New Year’s he rented a house in another state with a group of friends and later traveled to yet another state to ski. I think it is irresponsible of him to have engaged in recreational travel during the winter peak of the pandemic. The position he’s applying for is at a company where all employees currently work remotely. My concern is not that he’ll get anyone sick but that his recent travel indicates poor judgment, which may be obliquely relevant to his ability to do the job. Should I decline to refer him on these grounds or is that too big of a logical leap? Name Withheld

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