Wolf’s CCCC requires lots of see-see-see-see

Wolf’s CCCC requires lots of see-see-see-see

In the typical fashion of “We’re from the government and we’re here to help you,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf last week channeled his inner Franklin Delano Roosevelt with the creation of the “Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps (CCCC).”

The program, the governor says, will beef up “contact tracing” across the Keystone State, an effort to better contain and mitigate the coronavirus.

The CCCC “will reduce our unemployment rate while making a lasting health and economic contribution to our commonwealth,” Wolf said. “By maximizing our testing and contact tracing capacities, we can contain Covid-19 without widely freezing the movement of Pennsylvanians.”

But will it freeze civil liberties in the process? What of our fundamental rights in the original state of independence where interstate highway border signs encourage all comers to “Pursue Your Happiness”?

Wolf portrays the Pennsylvania quarantine cooperation effort as voluntary. But there are few details available, including exactly how it would be paid for. Wolf, however, is hoping for federal funding.

And Wolf is not a lone wolf in proposing such a program.

New York State has what is referred to as a “tracing army.” Commentators in New York City refer to the Big Apple’s program as one of “disease detectives.”

And in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom last week announced the creation of an “army and a workforce” of contract tracers to track down the infected and quarantine them.

Forcibly.

In at least one California county – Ventura – health officials are talking about involuntary internment in “other kinds of housing that we have available.”

Good grief.

“Why is it that we’re freeing prisoners and locking up innocents?” asked one commentator on PJMedia.com.

Surely, we’re conspiracy theorists, right? Hardly. Consider this dispatch for the Reuters news service:

“As the United States begins reopening its economy, some state officials are weighing whether house arrest monitoring technology – including ankle bracelets or location-tracking apps – could be used to (enforce) police quarantines imposed on coronavirus carriers.”

Surely this is not what the Framers envisioned in a Commerce Clause that indeed grants government broad public safety powers. Is it?

Tom Wolf’s Commonwealth Civilian Coronavirus Corps might be well-intentioned. No doubt there is ample scientific/medical evidence to suggest that contact tracing can be a valuable tool in halting the spread of infectious diseases.

But given the paucity of the details of the Pennsylvania program – including if the contact tracing will be one-on-one with limited digital data gathering or will it employ widely derided cell phone apps that collect, collate and store data, making it ripe for government abuse – it can only be viewed with a jaundiced eye.

Yet again, transparency must be the guidepost for such a program. And the only thing that can begin to eradicate the first-blush jaundiced view of Wolf’s CCCC is the see-see-see-see that absolute sunlight will provide.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).