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OPPOSE H.R. 6666, the COVID–19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act

Contact your U.S. Congressional Representative and ask them to vote NO on H.R. 6666 

Dear NVIC Advocacy Team Members,

H.R. 6666, otherwise known as the COVID–19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act, was introduced and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on 5/1/2020.  This bill is sponsored by Representative Bobby Rush (D) of Illinois District 1.  The bill has 59 cosponsors, 58 Democrats and 1 Republican.  We need your help to stop this terrible bill.  

Summary

H.R. 6666 provides 100 billion dollars this year and unlimited federal funding in future years to create and operate a massive and likely unconstitutional surveillance, testing, and tracing enforcement system under the guise of “protecting” Americans against coronavirus.

H.R. 6666 is a federal funding bill. It proposes to create a surveillance infrastructure that can be used by the federal government, as well as local and state governments and private businesses, to require medical testing and tracking of all citizens in violation of fundamental civil liberties as set forth in the Bill of Rights, which include the first 10 amendments to the  U.S. Constitution designed to protect individual rights and limit the power of the government.

H.R. 6666 lacks safeguards and conditions related to funding of the proposed surveillance operation to prevent it from being applied to intrusive programs mandating testing and surveillance without an individual’s voluntary consent. If this legislation is passed by Congress and enacted into law, it could lead to denial of an individual’s right to appear in public spaces and travel; the right to employment and education or participation in government-funded services, and the right to receive care in a government funded hospital or other any other medical facility.

H.R. 6666 specifically allows for funded entities to home quarantine a person against their will, even while they are healthy. Once a vaccine is available, the testing and tracing results potentially could be used to force individuals to be injected with a COVID-19 vaccine against their will.

According to a Press Release from the sponsor Congressman Bobby L. Rush, “Reopening our economy and getting back to normal will be all but impossible if we do not step up our testing efforts and implement robust and widespread contact tracing,” said Rep. Rush.  “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.”

The Devil is in the Details

H.R. 6666 would allow The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), acting through the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to award federal grants to eligible entities to conduct diagnostic testing for COVID–19, to trace and monitor the contacts of infected individuals, and to support the quarantine of such contacts. Through the use of mobile health units, as necessary, individuals would be tested and provided with services related to testing and quarantine at their residences.

The amount of money appropriated for fiscal year 2020 would be $100,000,000,000 (one hundred billion dollars) and more money may be appropriated by Congress as necessary for any subsequent fiscal year during which the emergency period continues.

A grant recipient may use the federal grant funds, in support of the above referenced activities to hire, train, compensate, and pay the expenses of individuals; and to purchase personal protective equipment and other supplies.

Priority will be given to applicants in “hot spots” and medically underserved communities and to entities that hire residents of the community where the activity will occur.  Hot spots are defined as a geographic area where the rate of infection with the virus that causes COVID–19 exceeds the national average. Medically underserved communities are communities given that term in section 799B of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 295p). 

Entities eligible for the grant money are defined as a federally qualified health center, school-based clinic, disproportionate share hospital, academic medical center, nonprofit organization, institute of higher education, high school, and any other type of entity as determined by the Secretary of HHS.

H.R. 6666 Does Not Guarantee Privacy

Section 2 (e) of H.R. 6666 is entitled “Federal Privacy Requirements”, but it does little to protect privacy. It states that “Nothing in this section shall be construed to supersede any Federal privacy or confidentiality requirement, including the regulations promulgated under section 264(c) of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (Public Law 104–191; 110 Stat. 2033) and section 543 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 290dd–2). 

In actuality, H.R. 6666 offers few privacy protections for Americans who will be surveilled and tested without their consent under programs funded with this grant. In fact, Americans can expect their privacy to be violated under TRACE funded programs. That is because the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA45 CFR 164.512(b)(1)(i) has always allowed disclosure of private health information to government officials and other government approved entities including foreign governments without the knowledge or consent of the individual for the purpose of conducting public health surveillance, investigations or interventions.

Bill of Rights Cannot Be Suspended During A “Public Health Crisis”

The Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution cannot be set aside by the federal government or state governments during pandemics or other public health emergencies. In The United States Statement of Interest in Support of Plaintiffs, filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a case last month in which church goers attending a drive-in sermon were issued citations for violating an executive order in Mississippi, the DOJ stated;

“There is no pandemic exception, however, to the fundamental liberties the Constitution safeguards. Indeed, “individual rights secured by the Constitution do not disappear during a public health crisis.” In re Abbott, --- F.3d ---, 2020 WL 1685929, at *6 (5th Cir. Apr. 7, 2020). These individual rights, including the protections in the Bill of Rights made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, are always in force and restrain government action.”

H.R. 6666 sets the stage for multiple violations of our constitutional rights.

The 4th Amendment right of American citizens is to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. The proposed law would provide government funding of entities that create and implement programs to trace and monitor healthy people potentially exposed to the coronavirus. However, the bill does not allow individuals to exercise their Constitutional right to be safe in their homes free from warrantless government intrusion, and does not provide for voluntary refusal of testing and monitoring by a government funded entity. The bill also does not set forth how the contacts of persons with COVID-19 will be traced and whether the Constitutional rights of those infected with COVID-19, as well as their contacts, will be upheld.

The 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. This legislation provides government funding of entities that will enforce testing and potentially enforce vaccination of healthy individuals, who are suspected of having come into contact with COVID-19 positive persons whether or not they are exhibiting symptoms, without requiring the voluntary consent of the individual.

The  8th Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment of citizens.  The proposed law provides government funding to entities that will create and implement programs that trace, monitor and support the enforced quarantine of healthy individuals, who are suspected of coming into contact with COVID-19 persons, whether or not they are exhibiting symptoms and whether or not they may already be immune.

The 9th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution bestows upon the people rights not specifically set forth in the Constitution. H.R. 6666 provides funding for entities to create and implement undefined “related activities” to COVID-19 testing and unnamed “other purposes.”

H.R. 6666 should be opposed because it provides federal funding to entities to create and enforce unrestricted surveillance, testing, tracing and quarantine mechanisms and has no set end date. There is simply no way to know how many inalienable rights protected under the U.S. Constitution could be infringed upon or taken away from citizens if this bill becomes law. 

Text, Status and History for H.R. 6666 https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6666?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+6666%22%5D%7D&r=1&s=1

Action Needed

1) Call and Email your own U.S. Congressional Representative and ask them to vote against H.R. 6666, the “COVID–19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act.” Pick a few points in the discussion that resonate with you to personalize your message.  You may need to leave a phone message as many staff members are working remotely.

If you do not know who your U.S. House Representative is or their contact information, you can login to the NVIC Advocacy Portal, http://NVICAdvocacy.org, click on the “NATIONAL” tab, and your elected Congressional Legislators are automatically posted on the right hand side of the page.  Click on their name to display links to all of their contact information.  If a district office is close to your home, you may also consider trying to set up a longer phone call, video chat or meeting with your Representative or staff to discuss your concerns.

2) Login to the NVIC Advocacy Portal, http://NVICAdvocacy.org, OFTEN to check for state and U.S. updates and action items.  We review bills and make updates daily. Bills can change many times over the legislative process and your timely visits, calls, and emails directed at the correct legislators are critical to this process. 

3) Please forward this email to family and friends and ask them to register for the NVIC Advocacy Portal at http://NVICAdvocacy.org and share their concerns with their Representative as well.  You can also link directly and share https://nvicadvocacy.org/members/Resources/OPPOSEHR6666.aspx 

Sincerely,

NVIC Advocacy Team
National Vaccine Information Center
http://NVIC.org and http://NVICAdvocacy.org
https://nvicadvocacy.org/members/Members/ContactUs.aspx

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