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July 27, 2020

King, Murkowski Introduce Legislation to Enhance Testing, Tracing Protocols

TRACE Act would support needed data collection efforts to begin to contain coronavirus

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have introduced legislation to establish a grant program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help enhance coronavirus testing, contact tracing, and supported isolation efforts. The COVID-19 Testing, Reaching, And Contacting Everyone (TRACE) Act’s grants could be used to support programs that use mobile health units or work through community-based organizations, provide coronavirus testing, conduct contact tracing, or offer assistance to individuals who quarantine after a positive test or contact with someone who has contracted the coronavirus.

“We can’t sit back and hope that coronavirus simply disappears – in order to save lives, we need to act with urgency,” said Senator King. “Testing, tracing, and supported isolation have been proven effective across the globe, and we have the ability to implement these techniques; we’re just missing the funds, and the political will.  America represents 4 percent of the world population, and 25 percent of its cases – we can and must do better. This bipartisan legislation will take important, needed steps to get this virus under control and protect our communities from this deadly virus.”

The TRACE Act’s grant program will be available to Federally Qualified Health Centers, school-based Health Clinics, disproportionate share hospitals, academic medical centers, nonprofit organizations (including faith-based organizations), Indian tribes and tribal organizations, and institutions of higher education. Priority will be given to projects proposed in hot spots and medically underserved communities, projects that will hire local residents to serve their communities, contract tracing projects that demonstrate prior relevant experience, or programs that commit to distributing at least 30 percent of the grant to county or local health departments.

This bill does not mandate testing, contact tracing, or quarantining for positive cases. It also does not authorize anyone to enter a private home, for whatever reason, without permission, nor does it allow the government to remove anyone from a private home because of the coronavirus.

Senator King has pushed the government to quickly act to make sure Americans have access to the care and systems they need to stay healthy. Earlier this month, he sent a letter urging Senate Appropriations leadership to fund a comprehensive program of testing, tracing, and supported isolation (TTSI). In June, he cosponsored a resolution with 46 colleagues condemning the Trump Administration’s attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act through a Supreme Court challenge effort. Earlier that month, he stated that the Trump Administration’s move to push the Supreme Court to overturn the ACA was “downright cruel”. In April, Senator King wrote to the White House urging a focused effort to expand testing and tracing capabilities. Senator King called for a bipartisan effort to increase the federal government’s share of Medicaid dollars as well as reduce premiums for individuals who are eligible for coverage in the ACA exchanges.  

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