Congress is considering a bill that will spend billions of dollars helping set up a system of contact tracing. And a Virginia congressman is supporting the bill in the House.
Northern Virginia Congressman Don Beyer is a co-sponsor of the TRACE Act, which would provide $100 billion in grants to clinics, medical centers and faith-based organizations to help them perform contact tracing.
The bill has the unfortunate tag of H.R. 6666, and the internet is full of conspiracy theories about the bill. Adriane Casalotti at the National Association of County and City Health Officials says that’s the fear of the unknown. “It makes sense that people are concerned about things that are new and different because we haven’t had to do contact tracing at this level. But no one is talking about forcibly removing people from their homes or doing any of these things," Casalotti explains. "We’re talking about how do you support people so they can keep going on with their lives and protect their loved ones from getting sick.”
Jay Stanley at the ACLU says contact tracing will never have perfect protection of privacy, but he says there’s no reason it can’t be done in a way that protects privacy. “That’s not just a side thing but protecting privacy is actually a crucial part of contact tracing because if people don’t have faith that their privacy is going to be protected, it reduces the effectiveness of contact tracing because people lie.”
Contact tracing isn’t just about protecting health. It’s also a potential temporary job for people who are out of work. The Virginia Department of Health is looking to hire 1,300 people to trace coranvirus cases.