Conservative Lawmakers Call For End To Contact-Tracing Contract

Chris Fox
June 03, 2020 - 5:36 am

Members of the Texas Freedom Caucus called for an immediate end to the controversial, $295 million contact-tracing contract that the State of Texas entered into with MTX Group, Inc. last month.

“We share the grave concerns of our constituents about the MTX contract from both fiscal responsibility and privacy standpoints, and call for its immediate cancellation,” said Rep. Mayes Middleton, chair of the caucus.  “This is an enormous amount of money to be spent by the Health and Human Services Commission, and the Legislature has had no say in it. Even though it’s voluntary, there is potential for abuse when the state collects that much data from citizens and the information, once collected, could easily fall into the wrong hands.”

Contact tracing in Texas has the endorsement of one of the State’s top infectious disease specialists, Baylor College of Medicine’s Dr. Peter Hotez. When asked why a proven method of mitigating the spread infectious diseases has become so controversial Hotez said, “Texas has a very aggressive anti-vaccine movement and they use these fake terms like health freedom, and medical freedom. And now I’m starting to see on some of their social media that they're latching themselves onto this issue as well, claiming that contact tracing is a violation of their civil liberties.”

Hotez went on to say, “Without a vaccine, the only things we have are testing and contact tracing and what I call syndromic surveillance, and if they're going to block all of those things, I can guarantee COVID-19 is going to come roaring back.”

Rep. Matt Schaefer, vice-chair of the caucus, also commented: The MTX contract presents too many concerns about overspending, lack of local knowledge, and oversight for privacy and constitutional issues."

“We discussed the issue and came to the conclusion that the privacy concerns we had were alone reason enough to void the contract,” said Rep. Matt Krause, secretary/treasurer of the caucus. “Such a massive collection and centralized storage of data on our citizens gives enormous power to whomever has access to it, and that power could largely go unchecked.

Back in late April press conference Governor Greg Abbott gave an update on the contact tracing program saying, “Phase one of our tracing program is already completed. It mobilized a team of more than 1100 state and local contact tracers. It created a contact tracing IT application. It set up the COVID-19 contact tracing call center.” Abbott has also made assurances that the privacy of Texans would be respected under the terms of the deal.