Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.

Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 15, 2020

Claim that federal contact tracing bill is not for COVID-19 is false

If Your Time is short

  • A Facebook post claims new federal legislation to support contact tracing “is about controlling/tracking population, not about coronavirus.”

  • The bill strictly targets the novel coronavirus. It would provide $100 billion to organizations that do COVID-19 contact tracing and testing, or that offer services to people who are isolating at home.

Proposed legislation in the U.S. House would provide new funding for testing and contract tracing to help public-health officials track and control the spread of the coronavirus.

But a Facebook post claims that the $100 billion bill "is about controlling/tracking population, not about coronavirus."

The May 12 post, which had more than 100,000 views by the next day, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The $100 billion is strictly targeted to fight COVID-19. It would fund not only contact tracing, a process aimed at stopping the spread of the disease, but also COVID-19 testing and services for people isolating at home.

What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing has become a key strategy of the White House plan to reopen states that went into shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. The process tasks public health workers with learning as much as they can about whom a patient has been in contact with, so they can be notified about their potential exposure.

While it does raise some privacy concerns, contact tracing has been used to slow the spread of other diseases, such as SARS and HIV. It’s a common strategy in public health agencies across the country.

State and local public health officials are hiring thousands of new contact tracers, but some experts say the federal government needs to spend billions of dollars to bolster those efforts.

The post

The claim about the proposed legislation is made by former television news reporter Ben Swann, who describes himself as a "journalist who speaks truth to power!" He runs TruthInMedia.com, which says it provides "content focusing on issues that impact humanity."

The headline of Swann’s post is: "H.R. 6666: $100 Billion Contact Tracing Bill is About Controlling/Tracking Population, Not About Coronavirus."

The post says: 

"A House resolution from Illinois Democrat Rep. Bobby Rush that would put Big Government in charge of tracking citizens’ movements as they relate to COVID-19 mitigation efforts — even sending health bureaucrats to ‘individuals’ residences, as necessary,’ as the legislation states."

That wording is nearly the same as the first paragraph of a Washington Times article that’s labeled opinion/analysis and was published the same day as the Facebook post.

The post also includes a 15-minute video in which Swann claims the bill would create "a massive new surveillance structure in this country." 

In the video, which we did not fact-check, Swann argues that contact tracing is useful only in the early stages of an outbreak and now "is completely useless" in the United States because "a massive amount of the population have been exposed to the disease." Based on that, Swann argues that the contact tracing supported by the bill would be done to "monitor you in your own home, traced in your home, your associations monitored, your movements monitored."

Bill broader than contact tracing

H.R. 6666 was introduced by Rush on May 1 and is called the COVID-19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone Act, or TRACE Act.

It would provide $100 billion in grants in the current fiscal year to faith-based organization, clinics, medical centers and other organizations that:

  • Perform testing for COVID–19;

  • Do contact tracing; or 

  • Provide services for individuals who are isolating at home. 

The bill would "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."

Swann told PolitiFact that the "other purposes" wording "leaves room for interpretation and expansion." 

Our ruling

A Facebook post claims new federal legislation to support COVID-19 testing and contact tracing "is about controlling/tracking population, not about coronavirus."

The bill strictly targets the novel coronavirus. It would provide $100 billion to organizations that do COVID-19 testing or contact tracing or that provide services to people who are isolating at home.

We rate the Facebook post False.

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Tom Kertscher

Claim that federal contact tracing bill is not for COVID-19 is false

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up