To the editor:
The senior communications officer of Outer Cape Health Services, Gerry Desautels, cited no state or federal statute or regulation to justify his organization’s lack of transparency regarding whether OCHS patients might be exposed to unvaccinated employees (“After Mandates, Few Cape Health Workers Remain Unvaccinated,” Dec. 16, page A1).
“Desautels said that, for confidentiality reasons, he could not disclose whether the five OCHS employees who received exemptions have direct contact with the public,” you reported.
What confidentiality reasons is he talking about? The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law protecting sensitive patient health information from being revealed without the patient’s consent or knowledge. HIPAA would not prohibit OCHS from disclosing whether any of its five unvaccinated employees has direct contact with the public because they would not be identified.
Patients should know whether OCHS employees with whom they have contact are vaccinated against Covid-19. OCHS should not make them ask employees to find out.
Ronald A. Gabel, M.D.
The New West Side Story
To the editor:
Regarding Howard Karren’s review of Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story [“A World on the Eve of Destruction,” Dec. 16, page C5]:
When I was a 16-year-old aspiring musician, I saw what I believe was the first Wednesday matinee performance of West Side Story. My mother’s Jewish women’s group, which bought tickets to almost all Broadway shows sight unseen, had an extra ticket, so I went with the ladies to see a show that had created a buzz because all the creative artists involved were Jewish. “Lenny” Bernstein was an adored figure among New York Jews — a sort of second coming of George Gershwin.
September 1957, when the show opened, was a fraught time for Jews in America. The Holocaust was fresh in everyone’s minds, and many of the people denounced a few years before by Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities as Communists or “fellow travelers” were Jewish.
The nice ladies who I was with did not know what to make of the show. At that time, Broadway musicals were referred to as “musical comedy.” There wasn’t much comedy in West Side Story — instead, a lot of tragedy, with themes of hopeless love, the corrosive impact of hatred and bigotry, and racial violence, all subjects well known to Jews. The ladies went to be entertained; instead, they were challenged.
I loved the new Spielberg film, which is much grittier and more realistic than the 1961 version. I was amazed by criticism that the movie did not present an accurate picture of the Puerto Rican experience in the U.S., even though there was grudging approval that Spielberg used actors with Hispanic backgrounds for many lead roles. West Side Story is not a documentary. Let the show and the film stand as works of art.