Annie Lane: COVID confidential

Published 6:40 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2022

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Dear Annie: Is it wrong or unethical to tell a friend that a mutual friend has COVID-19 without securing that individual’s permission to discuss their medical status?

I used to be a nurse before I retired 10 years ago, and I know it’s considered a breach of patient privacy laws to discuss the health status of those you are treating. But among friends, am I doing something wrong by telling another person that so-and-so has been sick with COVID-19?

I caught myself disclosing this about a mutual friend and now feel ashamed that perhaps I had no right to blurt it out. Maybe my sick friend did not wish others to know. This friend is a responsible person and is following all the guidelines and is not in any way the kind of person who would be careless and spread the illness.

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Thankfully, he has a mild case, but it nevertheless has laid him up for a few days. I feel bad that I revealed this to someone who knows him well but was unaware of his illness until I spoke out. Did I have any right to disclose this or, for that matter, any other illness that someone has but has not requested privacy in the matter?

—Racked With Guilt

Dear Racked With Guilt: From the way you signed your letter, you think that it was wrong to tell a mutual friend about your friend’s illness. If you were still working as a nurse and your friend disclosed to you that he had an illness, it would be a different story. But this sounds more like gossip than anything else. Gossiping does not feel good, which is why you feel guilty, but it’s time to let yourself off the hook. You made a mistake and learned from it, and now it is time to move on.

Tell your friend who had COVID-19 what you did, and my guess is that he will tell you to stop beating yourself up. Even if he doesn’t, life is too short to spend it feeling racked with guilt.

• • •

Dear Annie: One of your readers recently addressed the issue of cameras inside houses. These have become increasingly prevalent, and as a practicing attorney, I would like to offer a few suggestions for your readers.

It is advisable that people make sure they tell visitors that there are cameras in the house so they do not face lawsuits from litigious guests.

All questions about videos in the home should be looked at by an attorney based on the laws of the state where they are located.

Some states have two-party consent rules, meaning each party to a conversation must consent to being recorded. Others have one-party consent, meaning only one party must consent, and that allows one person to record a conversation without fear of eavesdropping charges.

If both homeowners are out of the room and two guests are talking, that could be electronic eavesdropping, which is illegal even in one-party consent states.

Further, a person who lives in a home cannot put up hidden cameras in private areas, such as bathrooms or bedrooms, because a person has the right to be secluded in their own home. That would give rise to a suit called “intrusion to seclusion.” It depends on the laws of the state about whether they can put cameras in common areas of the home.

Regardless, etiquette aside, it would help to advise guests.

—Alabama Attorney

Dear Alabama Attorney: Thank you for your professional opinion. I always love to hear from lawyers , especially those who are knowledgeable about relatively new technology such as in-home cameras.

“How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?” is out now! Annie Lane’s second anthology —featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation —is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to