A new right-wing conspiracy theory claims COVID contact tracers are stealing children - 2020-06-01
Public health officials, governors, and members of Congress all seem to agree that for the country to safely re-open for business and contain the spread of the new coronavirus, states and cities will need to roll out a massive new contact tracing program. That's the public health strategy designed to identify everyone who's come in contact with someone testing positive for the virus to encourage them to quarantine. "[T]racing, tracing, tracing" is one of the keys to opening the economy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a briefing in early May.
But lots of Americans have a very different view of contact tracing. "This is the next generation of brownshirts," declared Jack Robertson, on his far-right radio show Radio Free Redoubt, which he broadcasts from Spokane, Washington, under the pseudonym John Jacob Schmidt. The program would be so invasive, Robertson assured his listeners, all restaurant patrons will have to provide their contact information as a condition of getting served in order to be tracked down later if someone gets sick. "You're just going to have to give up going to restaurants," he lamented.
Robertson is not alone in his view that contact tracing is a vast government conspiracy to infringe on people's rights, rather than a standard public health intervention that's been used to mitigate infectious diseases from tuberculosis to STDs to Ebola. Anti-vaccine activists, the John Birch Society, and many of those participating in "re-open" protests over the past month have declared their intention to resist any attempts to force them to participate. One member of the Reopen Virginia Facebook group recently posted a job announcement from the state public health department looking for 1,300 new contact tracers, with the caption, "Evidently the Gestapo is hiring." Just in the past two weeks activists in Texas have formed a new group, Texans Against Contact Tracing, to oppose a new $295 million contract the state recently issued to hire hundreds of public health sleuths. They rallied for a protest at the state capital on May 24.