Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A group of House and Senate Democrats on Thursday announced legislation meant to ensure any tech tools used to combat pandemics don't violate Americans' privacy or introduce cybersecurity risks.

Why it matters: Americans report being wary of tech-based systems for coronavirus contact tracing — that is, identifying infected people and isolating those who've come in contact with them. A recent Axios-Ipsos survey found that just half of Americans would participate in a voluntary, cell-phone-based contact-tracing program.

Details: The Public Health Emergency Privacy Act is meant to help increase trust in the use of apps to contain the spread of COVID-19 and future disease outbreaks by:

  • Strictly limiting the use of data collected by such apps to public health purposes.
  • Mandating the destruction of emergency health data within 60 days of the end of a public health emergency.
  • Banning the use of health data for discriminatory or unrelated purposes, such as in advertising, e-commerce or housing and finance opportunities.
  • Granting federal regulators the authority to craft additional rules on the use of data and apps in addressing outbreaks and ensuring that states can write their own laws on the same.

What they're saying: The bill is being introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Mark Warner and Reps. Anna Eshoo, Jan Schakowsky, and Suzan DelBene.

  • "It is time for Congress to lead the way in assuring we have a strong national contact tracing system and that Americans’ personal data is protected," said DelBene, who has called on the Trump administration to adopt data privacy principles related to the pandemic. "This bill will achieve this mutual goal.”

Between the lines: The Democrats' legislation is a counter to a bill from Senate Republicans, which is more narrowly focused on the coronavirus pandemic.

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Updated Oct 16, 2020 - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

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Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Note: Does not include probable deaths from New York City; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. surpassed 8 million coronavirus cases on Friday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: Coronavirus infections jumped by almost 17% over the past week as the number of new cases across the country increased in 38 states and Washington, D.C., according to a seven-day average tracked by Axios.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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In pictures: Storm Zeta churns inland after lashing Louisiana

Debris on the streets as then-Hurricane Zeta passes over in Arabi, Louisiana, on Oct. 28. It's the third hurricane to hit Louisiana in about two months, after Laura and Delta. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Tropical Storm Zeta has killed at least two people, triggered flooding, downed powerlines and caused widespread outages since making landfall in Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane on Wednesday.

The big picture: A record 11 named storms have made landfall in the U.S. this year. Zeta is the fifth named storm to do so in Louisiana in 2020, the most ever recorded. It weakened t0 a tropical storm early Thursday, as it continued to lash parts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle with heavy rains and strong winds.