There is a lot of conversation and controversy over House Resolution 6666 introduced by Democrat Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois with 58 co-sponsors.
H.R. 6666 is the “COVID-19 Testing, Reaching and Contacting Everyone Act.”
Tracing is not a new idea, but it has been a hot topic on social media and radio talk shows in the last week. Opponents said it’s likely unconstitutional and violates the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Ninth Amendments.
The bill itself is short, but it has two sentences which are vague that worry opponents.
The bill grants $100 billion to entities around the country “to trace and monitor the contacts of infected individuals and to support the quarantine of such contacts.” It would do this through mobile health units “at individuals’ residences” and provide “services related to testing and quarantines” and “for other purposes.” Priority for funding would go to “hot spots” and “medically underserved communities.”
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would oversee and send the funds to health clinics, schools, high schools, universities, churches or basically any other entity the CDC chose. One hundred billion dollars in funding would be for fiscal year 2020 and “such sums as may be necessary” for fiscal year 2021 and any year thereafter when the emergency continues.
The opposition has cited violation of HIPAA and privacy, forced vaccinations and fear that it gives the authorities the right to come into homes and separate family members, including taking children if someone in the home tests positive for COVID-19. The bill clearly does not include verbiage for forced vaccinations or separations, the fear is the vague language will lead to these outcomes. This concern was fueled by at least two items made public.
One was an ad that appeared for the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families on a Washington state social services job board advertising for workers for child centers, suggesting that child separation for quarantine was already in the works and even giving the addresses of sites where the children would be held.
The DCYF later posted a clarification on the job posting, stating that it was intended only for foster children who had tested positive for COVID-19 or who had been exposed and had no placement available. They furthermore clarified that the addresses they posted were proposed, but they hadn’t received previous permission.
A second item was a video circulating on social media which showed Dr. Robert Levin, the director of Ventura County Public Health, speaking before the board of supervisors about a plan to hire up to 50 new “contact tracing investigators” to “find people who have COVID-19 and immediately isolate them, find every one of their contacts, make sure they stay quarantined and check in with them every day.”
Levin admitted his poor messaging during a news conference the next day, stressing those who test positive or who are identified by officials as having come in contact with an infected person would not be forcibly removed from their homes.
While Levin walked back his “poor messaging,” it’s undeniable that he did say it. The incident fueled important public discussion right now as to how influential employees like health officials should be as it pertains to policy decisions, laws or edicts, limiting citizens’ rights to leave their home, separate or work in their own business. And again, while citizens typically have complied voluntarily, boundaries are being tested as to how constitutional is it for mayors, county supervisors and governors to limit citizen’s movements freedoms and their ability to work or be free from forced injections.
There are a couple of petitions on Change.org, a website for activism, addressing HR 6666. One of them states, “House proposal HR 6666, The TRACE Act ...violates the very idea of a civil society. And, it is also a massive waste of $100 billion – allocated for 2020 alone.
HR 6666 violates inalienable rights to one’s person, home and property, to one’s life, freedoms, privacy and security. It is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, as well as the First, Fifth, Eighth and Ninth Amendments of the Bill of Rights. an invasion into our local communities.”
Public health officials have also been hoping for technology to help alert them to potential new infections and map the pandemic’s spread with the help of tech companies. Apple and Google announced in April a joint effort to track the coronavirus by smartphone. This idea also sparked a wave of fear on social media and excitement.
The tech giants have said that their apps would alert someone who had been exposed; however, it wouldn’t alert health officials or tell where the meeting took place, making it less helpful than health officials hoped.
While HR 6666 clearly does not include language directly for forced vaccinations, it is another public fear that governors will force the vaccination that President Donald Trump has discussed may be available in the next six to 12 months.
In deciding the constitutionality of a law, there are two ways to challenge them. One is to challenge the law “on its face,” which could strike the law in its entirety. The other way is to challenge the law “as applied” to a particular person. For example, a person with health disabilities might challenge the restriction that is preventing them from going outside for needed exercise.
A court could uphold an “as applied” challenge where a restriction is enforced so rigidly that it creates a harmful outcome in a particular case. While the government must act forcefully to protect public health, it’s best if restrictions are enforced flexibly, allowing for more personal physical freedom.
Strong government action, with due respect for the government’s constitutional limitations and some flexibility in enforcement, seems to be the best approach.
In conclusion, while tracing is not a new idea or action, one of the problems with this contract tracing program is that it is only helpful very early in an epidemic or pandemic. At the stage we are at in the U.S., it is almost useless because we are so far into it and so many people have already been exposed to the virus. As shown by the Stanford study and Bakersfield study, much of the population here already has antibodies. But Congress wants to spend an additional $100 billion for this program, creating a huge surveillance system and overreaching program not based on science, and many people disagree with offering money to individuals and groups who agree to monitor their neighbors. The bill is vague on what the outcomes would be for people who have been exposed.
Just like global warming, animal rights, free speech, forced vaccinations, religion, politics, gun rights and myriad other topics, no matter what side people are on, it is most important that they are free to discuss and voice their opinion openly without blatant censorship, such as what is currently happening on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media networks. Our forefathers wrote the First Amendment covering free speech, knowing that it was paramount for the protection of all the other amendments. We must protect our unique American inalienable rights.
Julie Reeder can be reached by email at jreedermedia.com.