The TRACE Act—or the COVID-19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone Act—was recently introduced into Congress by Congressperson Bobby Lee Rush. The Act authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement contact tracing and testing programs as it deems fit. The bill would also allow the Centers for Disease Control, acting on behalf of the HHS Secretary, to “trace and monitor the contacts of infected individuals” and “support the quarantine” of said contacts. If passed, it would cost U.S. taxpayers $100 billion for the fiscal year 2020.
The @CDCgov says contact tracing, is a “core disease control measure” & “key strategy for preventing further spread of COVID-19.”— Bobby L. Rush (@BobbyLRush) May 9, 2020
The COVID-19 TRACE Act would allow for mobile testing & door-to-door outreach to ensure we can SAFELY get back to normal. https://t.co/YlYhCQA5rR
The Act, technically referred to as H.R. 6666, was introduced in the House of Representatives on May 1, and can be found in full in its current form on Congress’ website. According to Rep. Rush, the bill was introduced because “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.”
The bill’s general aim is to “authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to eligible entities to conduct diagnostic testing for COVID-19, and related activities such as contact tracing, through mobile health units and, as necessary, at individuals’ residences, and for other purposes.”
Health Depts: CDC guidance on #COVID19 contact tracing is now available to help plan, implement, and enhance COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing efforts. Learn more: https://t.co/kzqeV8ZM61 pic.twitter.com/iY9xaIRims— CDC (@CDCgov) May 17, 2020
The testing and contact tracing programs deemed fit by the HHS Secretary—who is appointed by the President—will be executed by “residents of the area or community where the activities will primarily occur….” In other words, the HHS Secretary would decide which tracing and testing programs need to be funded. These programs would then be executed by local entities.
According to the bill, these local entities would include “Federally qualified health center[s]” such as: school-based health clinics, academic medical centers, institutions of higher education, high schools, and “any other type of entity that is determined by the Secretary to be an eligible entity….”
While the bill does note that the programs implemented by the HHS Secretary will be able to implement “services related to testing and quarantine at [infected individuals’] residences,” Rep. Rush’s office has claimed this does not equate to the ability to forcibly quarantine someone.
The COVID-19 TRACE Act would not authorize removing #coronavirus patients from their homes or require testing.— Bobby L. Rush (@BobbyLRush) May 14, 2020
This bill is about providing testing and outreach to communities that are being hit the hardest by this deadly disease. https://t.co/pIXXJmL85v
“The bill does not force you or your loved ones to do anything at all,” Rep. Rush’s site notes. It adds, “With that being said, if you or a loved one does has [sic] the coronavirus, it is advised that you do self-quarantine and maintain social distance from others.”
A cursory search hasn’t revealed any statement from current HHS Secretary, Alex Azar, on the TRACE Act, although he has been frequently discussing the necessity of a COVID-19 vaccination on Twitter. Head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus did, however, speak recently about the practice of contact tracing.
Contact tracing remains an essential element of the response. Starting tomorrow, @WHO is convening an online consultation on #COVID19 contact tracing, to share technical and operational experience and innovations in digital technology. https://t.co/VecvIKhuXs pic.twitter.com/IXxvHF9TgU— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) June 8, 2020
“I am immensely proud to see this bill receive bipartisan support and I hope to see the COVID-19 TRACE Act swiftly adopted by the House as a stand-alone bill or as part of a larger coronavirus response package,” Rep. Rush says on his page. Rep. Rush also claims that “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.”
For those who want to keep track of the progress of the TRACE Act as it works its way through Congress, you can do so here. For more CDC data on COVID-19, including statistics on the disease’s death trends and case trends in the U.S., you can find a full range of official resources here.
Feature image: Office of Bobby L. Rush