Here's a timely practice question.
A clinic social worker is seeing a client remotely who
has recently tested positive for COVID-19 after experiencing
respiratory symptoms, which are ongoing. He is still is working in
a job that involves many other people. "But it's fine, I wear my
mask and I'm almost always more than six feet apart from other
people," the client explains. He says he will lose his income if he
stops working. What is the social worker's obligation with regards
to public health?
A. Report the client to the local health
B. Refer the client to the clinic's medical
C. Make sure the client is always staying six feet apart
D. Review CDC guidelines for those infected with
COVID-19 with the client.
Have you encountered anything like this yet? How did you
respond? How would you respond? Which of the offered answers would
you select on the social work licensing exam?
Let's take them one at a time:
A. Report to the health department. While the client may be
endangering others, there is no duty to warn as there might be (in
some states) for a client planning a violent crime. Sharing the
client's diagnosis would be a breach of confidentiality.
B. Report to the clinic's medical director. This may not break
the client's agreement with the clinic regarding confidentiality,
it is that the best step to take regarding public health. The
social worker should be able to address the issue directly. It may
be helpful for the client to talk to the medical director, but
there are interventions the social worker can be trying right away
to help the situation.
C. Unless the social worker is going to work with the client and
running interference, this is not practical.
D. The client is apparently ignoring
CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19 infection. Reviewing those
standards is a good first step. Referral to the clinic's MD could
work to further encourage public-safety-minded adherence.
So there you have it. Can't break confidentiality, but have to
do something. That leaves referring or discussing.
Like in many situations, the social worker should discuss (D, that
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