Illinois Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush has introduced the H.R. 6666 TRACE Act, which includes a $100 billion grant program which would authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create an army of contact tracers operating through healthcare, schools and nonprofit entities, who would perform COVID-19 diagnostic testing “through mobile health units and, as necessary, at individuals’ residences, and for other purposes.”
Absolutely. My bill, the COVID-19 TRACE Act (H.R. 6666) would create a $100 BILLION grant program for local organizations to hire, train, and pay individuals to operate mobile testing units and conduct contact tracing in hot spots and medically underserved areas. https://t.co/5YGK34ifsU— Bobby L. Rush (@RepBobbyRush) May 5, 2020
“Until we have a vaccine to defeat this dreaded disease, contact tracing in order to understand the full breadth and depth of the spread of this virus is the only way we will be able to get out from under this,” Rush says on his website.
And when will that be?
“In order to save lives, reduce COVID-19’s burden on our healthcare system, ease strict social distancing measures, and confidently make progress toward returning to work and school, the United States must implement a robust and comprehensive system to identify all COVID-19 cases and trace all close contacts of each identified case.”
The bill’s co-signers include Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Republican Jefferson Van Drew of New Jersey.
In addition to the petition, Rush has received a fair amount of social media backlash, mainly out of concern for privacy.
Senate Republicans have been working on their own bill focused on contract tracing privacy to “provide all Americans with more transparency, choice, and control over the collection and use of their personal health, geolocation, and proximity data (and) hold businesses accountable to consumers if they use personal data to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.” –Heavy
Last week, former President Clinton, NY Governor Cuomo, Chelsea Clinton and CA Governor Newsom called for an ‘army of contact tracers’ to monitor citizens who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their contacts – shortly after which the Washington DC Department of Health posted job listings for investigators with “Trace Force.”
Those who sign on will interview those who have tested positive for the virus – collecting “demographic, clinical, social and historical data,” while “conducting an assessment to determine whether safe isolation can be achieved at home.” The program is a 13-month appointment.
Those who have been in contact with a positive case will be contacted to assess whether they have symptoms and require quarantine, and will ‘appropriate escalate’ cases when needed. Investigators will also use ‘data management systems’ to log interactions.
Meanwhile, many believe it’s too late for contact tracing to work – and it’s simply going to allow government to intrude further into the lives of Americans.
Trouble is, a mountain of scientific evidence indicates contact tracing won’t work against the coronavirus. And given the virus’ nature, deploying it earlier probably wouldn’t have stopped the spread.
The coronavirus is fast-moving and transmitted in multiple ways, such as touching contaminated surfaces like subway poles and door knobs. It can become aerosolized when someone sneezes two aisles over in the supermarket or coughs in an elevator. The virus is found in feces and may even spread when a toilet is flushed and viral particles become airborne.
The “disease detectives” will have to ask: “Who was that at the supermarket or in the public restroom?” In many cases, they won’t have an answer.
Lancet Global Health scientists conclude that contact tracing will work when “less than 1 percent of transmission occurred before the onset of symptoms.” That’s the opposite of the coronavirus: Victims are most contagious before or just as their symptoms begin, research indicates. By the time they are diagnosed and asked for contacts, those contacts are already infecting others. Oxford University scientists also caution that the coronavirus spreads by too many mechanisms “to be contained by manual contact tracing.” –NY Post