Recently introduced legislation would ensure that contact tracing is not used against communities of color as the state continues to recover from COVID-19.

Introduced by Sen. Gustavo Rivera and Assembly member Richard Gottfried, chairs of the Senate and Assembly Health Committees, the bill will ensure confidentiality of contact tracing data and prohibit access by law enforcement and immigration enforcement. Civil rights, health care, and privacy advocates, public defenders, and health care providers are urging New York’s legislature to pass the bill in the coming week as part of a larger package of police accountability and racial justice legislation.

The use of contact tracing by law enforcement is already occurring in other states. In Minnesota, police claim to have used contact tracing to track protesters. Leaders say that if individuals fear that participating in contact tracing will expose them or their loved ones to ICE enforcement or criminalization, they will choose not to participate.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity recently announced the opening of three “COVID-19 Centers of Excellence” in communities of color that have been hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Located in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Jackson Heights, Queens and Tremont in The Bronx, the new Gotham Health sites will provide comprehensive outpatient services for recovering COVID-19 patients. COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, with Black and Latino New Yorkers dying around twice the rate of their white counterparts when adjusted for age.

To support patients recovering from COVID-19, these new Gotham Health Centers will specifically provide pulmonary care, radiologic and diagnostic services, as well as mental health services to help address anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychological distress. The sites are projected to open this fall, and will also house retail pharmacies.

Patients can be referred to one of the centers after a hospital visit or through their primary care provider. Positive COVID-19 test results, antibody or not, are not required.