Now that every state has reopened to some degree, the potential for a resurgent spread of the virus has increased. If new outbreaks occur, citizens and businesses are likely to find stay-at-home requirements very disruptive.

Contact tracing is an essential element of how states and localities plan to keep COVID-19 contained. The National Association of County and City Health Officials estimates that it will take 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 citizens to do the job right. Only seven states have plans that will enable them to meet that standard; North Dakota has already done so.

Since April, a number of bills have been introduced to address some of the details of implementing contact tracing more broadly, from privacy issues to ensuring cultural diversity among workers doing this vital job.

H2510 in Pennsylvania allocates $500 million in federal funds to create regional health collaboratives charged with developing an action plan for testing and contact tracing and to assist in the completion of tracing studies.

Louisiana HR44 directs the governor to ensure that contact tracing in the state does not violate the “liberty and individual rights” of citizens. It forbids tracking movements through cellphone location tracking, data mining that would make it possible to track a person, and collecting “personal identifying information” through contact tracing.

S8362 in New York requires government agencies that hire contact tracers to ensure workers reflect the “cultural and linguistic diversity” of the communities in which they will do their jobs. Agencies are to make annual reports to the governor and Legislature regarding their efforts to accomplish this goal.

H1038, a North Carolina bill, creates a Coronavirus Relief Fund with CARES Act funds received in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. It appropriates $35 million for testing, contact tracing and tracking, and analyzing trends. It also includes expanding both the number of contact tracers and the infrastructure supporting their work.

HR0842 in Illinois urges the governor and general assembly to adopt a reopening plan similar to the one developed by the state of Indiana. The Indiana plan includes a prescription to expand contact tracing and to contact all individuals who test positive for COVID-19.

Minnesota H4665 states that the commissioner of health may not require a contagious person with COVID-19 to participate in contact tracing. It allows contact tracing using data transmitted between wireless devices, but the commissioner cannot require a citizen to use an app based on such data, or to provide location information. Employers are also forbidden to require an employee to use a contact tracing application, including one installed on a device provided by the employer. Persons who feel “aggrieved” by a violation of these and other guidelines in the act can sue for personal and punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

 

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