My university tests every student. So they have the data. I can understand that for privacy, the names of the students who tested positive are not released to the public or the instructors. But do instructors have right to know how many or if any student in his/her class tested positive?

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    I very much doubt there is any such universal right under law; it hasn't really come up until now and I'm not aware that any new laws have been made. Whether your institution gives that information to instructors would be up to its policies. – Nate Eldredge Aug 17 '20 at 19:06
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    If they're doing proper contact tracing with that data then I assume instructors, like anyone else who had been in contact with the student, would be notified. – Nate Eldredge Aug 17 '20 at 19:08
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    @Buffy A highly relevant number that is definitely not going to be zero in all situations is those who have now tested positive but were previously in the classroom. – Bryan Krause Aug 17 '20 at 19:31
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    I am not a lawyer. I would guess not sharing this information (or at least the fact that there is an infected person in the classroom) may be argued as worker endangerment. 29 USC 654 reads: Each employer— (1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees; ... – Boaty Mcboatface Aug 17 '20 at 20:34
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    @ssquidd When you enter a room there shouldn't be anyone who had tested positive. But someone who is in the room may test positive at later time: at that point the university, or the health authority, should contact all those who were present in the room. – Massimo Ortolano Aug 17 '20 at 21:04

In the university I work for that would make no difference: everybody physically present is tested negative, as those who are tested positive are not allowed to enter the building, and this is checked.

The bigger problem I see with giving this information to lecturers is with smaller courses. It would be very likely that anonymity can no longer be guaranteed. Moreover, there is no clear cutoff point that distinguishes between small and big courses. So I understand the universities that do not give that information.

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    I haven't downvoted, but the first paragraph doesn't make sense: you cannot test every person every day before they enter the building. – Massimo Ortolano Aug 17 '20 at 20:19
  • "those who are tested positive are not allowed to enter the building..." whose is enforcing that? In my university, students are simply asked to stay home if they tested positive. If we are relying on students doing exactly what they are told, then we are doomed. – user39093 Aug 17 '20 at 20:49
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    What? Can in US anyone with Corona just walk around legally?! – user111388 Aug 17 '20 at 21:08
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    @ssquidd: That's sad. Probably the first step should be to influence politics to change those stupid laws.. – user111388 Aug 18 '20 at 6:52
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    Basically no student can enter without written permission. All doors but one are closed, and students need to identity themselves and show their permission. That permission is obviously immediately revoked as soon as someone is tested positive. The student can of course not mention the result, but it will eventually come out, and the consequences would be extremely severe, so that would be a very very very dumb move – Maarten Buis Aug 18 '20 at 15:18

Instructors have a right to a safe work environment, like any employees, and that right will be enshrined in legislation in most countries. So, if you can successfully argue that withholding information about students testing positive puts the instructor in danger to their health and therefore violates that right, the answer to your question would be “yes”.

However, this situation you are asking about is so new that I doubt any legislation or case law exist anywhere that are specific enough to make it possible to predict whether such an argument can work. So, on a practical level the more realistic answer at this point in time is “no one knows”.

  • For a save workplace the instructor only needs to know that no one who has tested positive is allowed on campus. So there is no need for additional information. – Maarten Buis Aug 18 '20 at 15:24
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    @MaartenBuis consider this scenario: 1. Instructor X is immunocompromised/at-risk. 2. Student A tests positive. 3. Student A attended another class the day before she tested positive, together with student B. 4. Student B is in Instructor X’s class, which meets tomorrow. Student B has not yet tested positive, but was last tested three days ago, and has another test scheduled in two days (since the university cannot test every student every day). Does Instructor C consider themselves safe in this scenario? – Dan Romik Aug 18 '20 at 15:39
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    Then info on who tests positive in her/his class does not help her/him. Such an instructor should get permission to teach only remotely. It is not a good idea to let a instructor do contact tracing for all students in her or his class. (S)he is not a professional, so it will only provide false security, at the cost of the privacy of the students, that looks like a pretty horrible trade off to me. – Maarten Buis Aug 18 '20 at 16:12
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    @Maarten I’m not a public health expert and don’t have an opinion about how things should work. It may be a horrible idea as you say, but it could also be still less horrible than some other system the university has put in place that doesn’t allow instructors to get permission as you suggest and doesn’t provide them information they need for their safety and health autonomy. So your statement that for a safe workplace the instructor “only needs to know that no one who has tested positive is allowed on campus” may be true in some specific context you have in mind, but is false in general. – Dan Romik Aug 18 '20 at 16:21
  • OK, we disagree – Maarten Buis Aug 18 '20 at 19:18

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