Never mind former President Ronald Reagan’s warning of the most terrifying words in the English language — “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
The contact tracer’s is far worse: I’m from the government, and I’m here to quarantine you.
This is the next step in the coronavirus fight; this is the path America is walking. Right now.
From The Hill, in a piece titled, “A day in the life of America’s contact tracing army,” comes this quote of Kelsey Green, a contact tracer working for the Carroll County Health Department in Maryland: “It’s not a fun job at times,” she said, in reference to the telephone calls she makes to people to inform them they may have come into contact with someone who’s tested positive for the coronavirus.
She went on to say: “A lot of people don’t want to hear it, but when they do hear it, they’re receptive and thankful. It seems a little intrusive, but it makes me so happy if someone answers [the phone], and I’m able to tell them, ‘Hey, you’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive. Can you quarantine?’ “
How about this as a response: Who the freak are you? Hang up, hang up quick. Hang up quick and call the police; there’s a stalker on the streets.
That’s what should be the normal reaction to a telephone caller who identifies as a member of the government, professes to have information about your whereabouts in recent times, claims to have the inside scoop on personal and private health and medical information — and then suggests you stay at home for a couple weeks. Off the streets. Out of work. Away from the public and people.
George Orwell couldn’t have penned a more frightening scenario.
And it’s all the more frightening because it’s dressed in layer after layer of care and concern and compassion — and then cloaked in a thick cloth of secrecy.
“A lot of contacts have no idea where they got this from, who they got this from, because we’re not allowed to say who the index case is,” Green said, The Hill reported.
Contacts is “people;” the you’s and me’s in this contact tracing equation. The index case is the person who tested positive at the clinic, or health facility, or medical office.
“The Carroll County Health Department tries to reach contacts within 24 hours of learning they may have been exposed,” The Hill wrote. “An investigator conducts a comprehensive interview with anyone who has tested positive, walking them slowly through the last 48 hours, learning the names of those with whom they have come into close contact. Those names are turned over to Green’s team, who calls and delivers the bad news.”
So what if Joe Q. tells the “investigators” wrong names?
What if Joe Q. has a grudge against his ex-girlfriend and purposely names her — even though he’s not come into contact with her for months?
What if the investigators get it wrong?
“At the end of the call, [Green’s] team sends the contacts a series of documents — recommendation on how to quarantine, agreements that they will abide by isolation rules, information about symptoms and what to do if a contact becomes a [positive coronavirus] case,” The Hill wrote.
This is not friendly helpful government reach-out, folks.
This is government coming to your home, coming to your doorstep, telling you to stay at home, out of medical concerns for self and others — and stripping you of your privacies and individual rights to choose, your rights to self-determine, your rights to make your most basic personal health decisions. And it’s going to get worse with technology — with handy-dandy smartphone downloaded apps that do the hard part of data collection currently done by health office personnel. Beware the app.
Avoid the app. Beware the entire government contact tracing program.
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s own website section on contact tracing: “Separating contacts from people who are not exposed is critical to the success of any contact tracing effort and requires social supports for individual compliance and medical monitoring. If possible, contacts should be asked to voluntarily stay home, monitor themselves and maintain social distancing from others. However, health departments have the authority to issue legal orders of quarantine, should the situation warrant that measure.”
That’s it, in a nutshell.
If the government says you have been exposed to the coronavirus — then that’s it, you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus. And now you must stay home. Now you must cede your civil liberties.
Now you must do as the government says.
Now you must obey.
This is America, post-COVID-19, and the “new normal.” Where are the Republican lawmakers on this?
Congress, at least the conservatives in Congress, need to step in and put a speedy end to these crazily unconstitutional designs with legislation that makes clear: Neither contract tracers nor their minions in the bureaucratic health fields have power to tell free citizens what to do, positive coronavirus test results be danged.
Free American citizens are only free so long as they are able to keep control of their most basic private and personal decisions. If the government can tell citizens what to do when they’re sick, or maybe sick, or might be sick, or have maybe crossed paths with someone who is sick, or maybe sick — well then, that’s the end of freedom in America as we know it.
The “new normal” is no America at all.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.
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