I am an unvaccinated teacher in the Pacific Northwest. My school district granted me a religious accommodation from the deadly Covid shots. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for that, but as of November 8, I am now required to take a weekly PCR test in order to keep my job.
A lawyer I spoke to about this told me I should just be thankful to have this option. But as Thanksgiving Day approaches, I can tell you that one thing I am NOT thankful for is being forced to do undergo tests. Here’s why:
Disparate treatment under Title VII
A recent study in the Lancet adds to the growing body of evidence that vaccinated individuals can spread the virus at rates similar to unvaccinated individuals. “Peak viral load did not differ by vaccination status or variant type.”
It’s clear from scientific literature that my vaccinated colleagues have as much potential to spread the Wuhan coronavirus as I do. And since my school forced me into getting a religious exemption, rather than listening to the argument from science against vaccines, this is now a religious issue that falls under Title VII, which “prohibits disparate treatment, job segregation, or harassment based on religious belief or practice (or lack thereof), as well as retaliation for the exercise of EEO rights.”
In my district, vaccinated and unvaccinated teachers are both required to wear masks. Why, then, should unvaccinated teachers be required to take PCR tests? Testing a healthy person is a bit silly anyway since asymptomatic spread is doubtful. Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) technical lead for COVID-19, said that asymptomatic transmission appears to be “very rare.” “The highest estimate was a transmission rate of 2.2%, suggesting ‘asymptomatic spread is unlikely to be a major driver of clusters or community transmission of infection.'”
Why not just comply?
You may be wondering what the big deal is. What’s wrong with taking a painless at-home PCR test that the school district supplies? While it may sound like a nice compromise, the problem is that I have some serious concerns about what is being done with my private medical information.
The district has provided me with at-home testing kits from a company called Everylwell. I opened my first one on Nov 8 before work as I was told to do. As I skimmed the Everlywell terms of agreement, I grew uneasy with what I was being forced to consent to. In a hurry to get to work, I did not have sufficient time to read the Terms of Agreement, so I just accepted everything. Later, when I had more time, I returned to the Everlywell website and found some disturbing things lurking in the Terms and Conditions:
- We may use your de-identified information and test results in our research.
- We may disclose your information to the Lab(s) and Health Consultants involved in providing you Services.
- We may share your personal information with our subsidiaries and affiliates in order to provide you with the Services and take actions based on your requests.
- We may disclose, without restriction, aggregated or anonymized information about our users, which is information that does not identify any specific individual.
And my favorite:
- Your use of Everlywell’s Services is voluntary. It is your choice whether to utilize our Services or not.
Ha! My use of this site is anything BUT voluntary.
You may think I’m being paranoid, but in this day and age there are good reasons to be concerned about what is being done with our personal medical information, especially our DNA.
The PCR test I must take weekly is evidently a DNA test. It is my understanding that in a PCR test, RNA is taken and reversed into a double strand DNA. Then they test the DNA (my human DNA) to see if there are markers for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Due to the reasons stated above, I have no way of knowing what they are doing with my information. I emailed Everlywell for clarification, but that email was summarily ignored. They even skipped processing the test that I sent to them on November 15. Here are the questions I asked in my email:
According to the NIH, National Human Genome Research Institute, ‘Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a laboratory technique that uses selective primers to “copy” specific segments of a DNA sequence.”
1. Does the segment of the “DNA sequence” come from my DNA? Yes or NO
2. Is that DNA sample destroyed after testing?
3. Is any record kept of my DNA?
4. What data of mine is being kept?
5. Your terms of agreement say that “We may use your de-identified information and test results in our research.” What kind of research is being done with my de-identified information and what de-identified information is being used?
I never received a response to those questions, and I get the feeling that they would have continued to ignore my tests were it not for the fact that my school district is compelling these tests.
A closer look at Everlywell
According to Consumer Reports, companies like Everlywell can make up their own rules for privacy. “The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prevents employers from discriminating against you on the basis of your genetic information. But it doesn’t say anything about what a third-party DTC genetic testing company can do with the information it collects about you.” Granted, the Consumer Reports article is talking about direct-to-consumer companies that do DNA testing in order to reveal ancestry information, and Everlywell is not exactly the same company, but I think the same principle applies. It seems these companies can make up their own rules on what to do with our medical information as they go.
This is concerning because of the potential that my information has of falling into the hands of tyrannical people or governments, like China (or the US government such as it is nowadays). Everlywell is a multi-billion-dollar company funded by venture capitalist companies including Blackrock, which has ties to China. It is widely known that China is collecting DNA from its own citizens. Now, CBS reports that China may be trying to obtain DNA from Americans and citizens of other countries. Given the lack of regulations, what is preventing Everlywell from making a little extra money by selling our DNA to the communist party?
An added concern is that we now have scary-sounding technological advancements like the Internet of Bodies that links biological information across the Internet. Much of the information is stuff like pacemaker data being sent to doctors or Apple Watch information being sent to Apple, but some of it could include DNA tracking and studying to determine patterns and even predict behavior. In an article by the World Economic Forum, “James Dempsey, director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, warned of potential discrimination and bias when such data is used for decisions in insurance and employment. The affected people may not even be aware of this.”
When I got the results from my first test, it turns out they sent my samples to another company called Gravity Diagnostics CLIA. Gravity Diagnostics is the one that is doing the testing and sending my results. So now my personal medical information is being shared between two private companies, and I’m not even sure which company I would need to sue or complain about. That’s probably by design. Everlywell probably would pass the buck on to Gravity Diagnostics, which seems to be a smaller player.
I sent an email asking my district to reconsider its stance on forcing me to participate in PCR testing. The director of human resources called me at 7 p.m. one night last week and said that I should voice my concerns to the state Health Department, but that the school district could do nothing to help. He also said I should consider resigning if I want to continue pushing this. Other than that offensive piece of advice, it was a good conversation. Looks like the next step is to file a complaint with the EEOC.
I guess I’ll keep shoving those things up my nose…at least until the courts decide that the district can shove their unlawful mandates up their rears. If anyone has any advice, I would appreciate it.
Be blessed, and keep your DNA to yourselves!