On Friday, Republican Texas state Senator Bob Hall sent a letter asking Texas Governor Greg Abbott to stop the state’s “technically wrong, financially wrong, and morally wrong” contact tracing program. The program, Texas Health Trace, is meant to quickly identify, quarantine and educate individuals who may have contracted COVID-19.
“No matter how much lipstick is put on the project, mass surveillance and data collection constitute a gross invasion of privacy and trampling of individual liberty,” Hall wrote. “People have had enough of excessive and unnecessary government overreach and are near the boiling point.”
In his letter, Hall wrote that fear had caused federal, state and local governments to “overreact” to the coronavirus epidemic and also scared consumers and companies into harming the economy.
Hall claims that the state contract to manage Texas Health Trace was awarded to MTX Group “with no legislative oversight and without due process safeguards.”
“We should have been in the loop and we should have known. We should have been able to ask questions,” the state’s Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said on Thursday about MTX Group’s approved contract.
The Dallas Morning News recently wrote that MTX Group, a north Dallas-based company, hadn’t revealed the subcontractors it will partner with during the 27-month contract nor had MTX Group said what contact tracers will be paid. The company won the contract over other major corporations like IBM, Accenture and AT&T.
Hall also questioned MTX Group’s ability to manage a nearly $300 million contract that involves rapidly recruiting, training, mobilizing and managing over 4,000 tracers, especially after the company recently went 123 percent over budget to handle licensing and regulatory processing for Kentucky’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
MTX Group hasn’t revealed its plans for administering the Texas Health Trace program, but the program website says it depends on people who have contracted COVID-19 to sign up for the program. MTX Group claims it has already instituted a “learning management system” to train new contact tracers about internal technology systems and federal health laws.
Lastly, Hall said in his letter that he thinks a state contact tracing program isn’t necessary because the initial projections of the people affected by COVID-19 were “grossly wrong.” He also wonders how such a program would work well since it requires citizens to self-report themselves as having COVID-19 when many people who catch the virus are asymptomatic.
Hall believes state funding would be better spent preventing coronavirus spread amongst older citizens and other vulnerable populations.
Newsweek reached out to Hall for comment. This story will be updated with any response.
On May 27, Texas experienced its fourth-highest daily toll of newly confirmed coronavirus cases with 1,361 cases reported. As of May 28, the state has had 54,509 confirmed cases and 1,506 related deaths. Texas currently ranks seventh among the U.S. states with the highest number of cases.
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