The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) purchased data from tracking companies to monitor compliance with lockdowns, according to contracts with the firms.
The CDC paid one firm $420,000 and another $208,000. That bought access to location data from at least 55 million cellphone users.
The contracts, approved under emergency review due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were aimed at providing the CDC “with the necessary data to continue critical emergency response functions related to evaluating the impact of visits to key points of interest, stay at home orders, closures, re-openings and other public heath communications related to mask mandate, and other merging research areas on community transmission of SARS-CoV-2,” the contracts, obtained by The Epoch Times, state.
The CDC said it would be using the tracking data to “assess home-by-hour behaviors (i.e. curfew analysis) by exploring the percentage of mobile devices at home during specific period of time.” The data could also be integrated with other information “to provide a comprehensive picture of movement/travel of persons during the COVID-19 pandemic to better understand mandatory stay-at-home orders, business closure, school re-openings, and other non-pharmaceutical interventions in states and cities.”
Under a heading labeled “potential use cases” for the data, the CDC said it could be used to try to connect the forced closures of bars and restaurants with COVID-19 infections and death rates, as well as try to assess the impact of state restrictions on close contact between people outside of their home.
The data could also be used to monitor adherence to mandated or recommended quarantines after arrival from another state and to examine the correlation of mobility patterns and spikes in COVID-19 cases at facilities such as churches, concerts, and grocery stores. It would also enable examining movement restrictions such as curfews to show “patterns” and “compliance,” the contracts state.
The contracts were previously reported on by Vice News, but the outlet only released a screenshot of a single page. Together, the contracts run 71 pages. Both were signed in 2021, the same year new medical codes for COVID-19 vaccination status were approved..
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the top Republican on the Senate Subcommittee on Investigation, expressed concern with the purchase of the mobility data, asking the CDC who approved the purchase and whether it shared the data with other agencies.
“It remains unclear why the CDC tracked millions of Americans during the pandemic and whether it continues to do so. In response to COVID-19, the CDC should have been prioritizing the development of treatments, effective testing, and vaccine safety rather than tracking Americans’ daily lives,” Johnson wrote to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
Walensky said in response that the data was part of “us[ing] the best science available to inform our understanding of the public health impacts of interventions and to inform recommendations.”
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