Exclusive: L.A. first responders ordered to turn over personal and genetic data to China-linked company or face firing

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LOS ANGELES, CA – In an exclusive interview, Law Enforcement Today learned that L.A. County is mandating that employees register their vaccination status through Fulgent Genetics, an international technology company with ties to China, with a required consent to release their personal and genetic information to foreign nations.

Hilda Solis, chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, issued an executive order on Aug. 4 requiring the county’s 110,000 employees to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 .

First responders, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are being required to upload their medical records and personal information into a Fulgent app used by the County to track employee compliance with the COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

Five Los Angeles County employees filed suit against the county on October 1, alleging the vaccine mandate for county workers issued by executive order in August and ratified by the Board of Supervisors is unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs are Sheriff’s Department employees Vincent Tsai and Oscar Rodriguez; Probation Department worker Enrique Iribe; Sanitation Department employee Mohamed Bina; Department of Public Health worker Shayne Lamont; and the nonprofit group Protection for the Educational Rights of Kids, which advocates for civil rights, bodily autonomy, medical freedom and other rights, with a particular focus on children and parental rights, according to the suit.

The suit states:

“PERK joined this lawsuit because of the devastating effect the county’s unlawful mandate would have on children and families in Los Angeles. County residents cannot afford to lose thousands of public employees on a whim. They would be unable to obtain critical public services, including social services that kids and families depend on.

“The county cannot just get rid of the unvaccinated employees who Ms. Solis chastised for not doing their part to end the pandemic.”

The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit also alleges the directive exceeds the county’s power under the Emergency Services Act and was implemented during proceedings that violated the state’s open-meeting law.

But one Sheriff’s Department deputy told Law Enforcement Today that the mandate is not his biggest concern, the survey is:

“There is California law that says your genetic information is confidential and personal to you and cannot be released without your consent. And we are being told, ‘You shall give consent.’ How is that legal? You can’t tell me that I have to give consent to something that I don’t.”

The deputy, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said most people are aware of the issues with the vaccine mandate, but that concerns about the Fulgent survey are being “pushed under the rug or ignored.”

The deputy said:

“When you start reading through the fine print of the survey, our attorneys have discovered that not only are you granting them (Fulgent Genetics, Inc.) access to use and distribute our genetic data however they see fit, but it also gives them access to our financial information, our personal identifying information including our social security number.”

“It clearly says in the fine print that we give them permission to disseminate it, store it, and otherwise utilize (the data) anyhow they see fit, even in foreign countries.”

Fulgent Genetics, inc. is based in Temple City, California with ties to the People’s Republic of China. The testing company that has contracted with the Centers for Disease Control to  provide genomic sequencing of samples of SARS-CoV-2 on an ongoing basis.

Dr. Harry Gao, Chief Scientific Officer at Fulgent Genetics, said in May that the collection and study of genetic data was vital to understanding COVID-19:

“We are pleased to be able to leverage our NGS capabilities to aid the CDC in the study of SARS-CoV-2. We believe that a thorough understanding of the genomic data of the virus gathered through this study will improve our collective ability to fight COVID-19 over the long term.

“We look forward to supporting the CDC in this ongoing initiative.”

Fulgent Genetics’ admission that it plans on studying genetic material is concerning when coupled with the waiver that L.A. County first responders are being ordered to sign on the threat of discipline up to and including termination.

Fulgent Genetics’ website has a notice of “International Transfers of Personal Information” clause. This clause states that personal information can be transmitted across the globe, and warns that if someone does not want their information shared with foreign countries, they should not use their services:

“We may store, process and transmit personal information in locations around the world, including locations outside of the country or jurisdiction where you are located. Such countries or jurisdictions may have data protection laws that are less protective than the laws of the jurisdiction in which you reside.

“If you do not want your information transferred to, processed, or maintained outside the country or jurisdiction where you are located, you should not use our Services.”

International Transfers of Personal Information notice of Fulgent Genetics
International Transfer of Personal Information notice of Fulgent Genetics

The L.A. County deputy said threatening first responders with termination for not agreeing to give away their personal information is “crazy”:

“The fact that the country doesn’t realize this or doesn’t care is just absolutely crazy. You are essentially putting first responders’ personal information, including their genetic information, out there for the highest bidder.”

“The fact is they are threatening to relieve us of duty should we not comply. It’s just getting out of control.”

The deputy said that thousands of first responders are standing up to the LA Board of Supervisors and refusing to submit the survey. He explained that the size of the resistance caught the leadership of the police department off guard:

“So far, the push back we have been giving has been confusing the brass because I don’t think they expected so many people to stand up and tell them to pound sand. We are getting mixed messages now.

”They have said, ‘We are moving the date back for fulgent survey compliance’ or ‘You’re going to be disciplined, but we are not sure how.’ There is no clear message now because (the brass) is in such disarray because we are pushing back.”

Not having a clear message on what discipline the officers face for non-compliance is complicating matters. The deputy explained:

“We have supervisors, Sergeant and up, that are ordering deputies to submit this survey or be faced with discipline. Yet, when deputies are (asking what the discipline is), they say they don’t know.

“Well, that’s not an acceptable answer. You are threatening me with discipline, and I have rights as an employee and as a citizen. You can’t threaten me under coercion or intimidation to submit to something  like this, especially considering that California law states that your genetic information is protected.”

The deputy said that some higher-ranking officers have stood with the deputies against the survey, but that there is no political support to protect the first responders from having their personal information released throughout the world through the survey:

“There are a few Sergeants and Lieutenants standing tall with us, but it seems like most of the brass have pretty much caved. Apparently, chiefs are calling captains and threatening them and telling them, ‘You will get your people to fill out this survey.’

“Captains are emailing deputies telling them, ‘You will do it, or you will face discipline under insubordination,’ which is an automatic five days off unpaid. If you continue to not comply with whatever they are demanding, you are then terminated.”

He said unions have not taken steps to support the deputies. He said that one of the largest unions representing L.A. County deputies is the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS). The union represents over 8,000 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in L.A. County.

The union is ignoring the entire issue, according to the deputy:

“A huge number of us have reached out to (ALADS) and voiced our concern over this. We told them, ‘Hey, you guys need to fight for us on this.’ They are basically rolling over and saying, ‘Well, we can’t win this battle so we’re not going to spend all this money on attorney’s fees for something we don’t think we can win.”

“They are basically ignoring the fact that this is our money. We are giving it to use as our union to represent us, and you’re telling us you won’t do it. So, they have pretty much caved in.”

Sheriff's statement (Source)
Sheriff’s statement (Source)

The deadline to submit the Fulgent survey was October 8, but the resistance has resulted in a delay until at least October 21. The deputy said the vaccination mandate is also on hold, thanks to L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s refusal to enforce it.
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The deputy explained:

“That date came and went. A lot of people got notices of violation, and now they have to about the 21st to comply with the survey. Luckily, the sheriff said he was not going to mandate vaccination, so there is no set date on that yet.”

Plans are being made to continue the fight against the survey and the mandate. The PERK lawsuit is a first step, focusing mainly on the mandate. However, steps are being taken to protect first responders who refuse to submit the survey or have submitted and now regret doing so.

“We have one major lawsuit going so far, but they are not representing us directly. It is an umbrella lawsuit on behalf of first responders. It doesn’t name everyone, it just names five parties but it is essentially meant to cover all of us. Right now, their main concern is fighting the mandate.

The Fulgent survey is another front where they are looking at how they are going to approach it. So far, they have provided us with Opt-out letters drafted by their attorneys saying that we don’t consent to this, under California law, we are not required to. And that if we are being told we would be punished, then we are going to invoke out Skelly Rights and demand hearings.”

The deputy said the vaccine mandate is important, but he was more concerned with the lack of attention being received about the release of personal and genetic data:

“I think everyone is aware of the whole mandate issue, but this whole Fulgent Genetics thing is being swept under the rug or ignored. We are being pushed by our local government to hand over our information to China.”

PERK is representing first responders because any action taken against non-compliance would have a negative effect on children and families.

In an “Urgent Action” letter, the group wrote:

“If the First Responders, Public Workers, and Healthcare workers were to lose their jobs, consequentially not being available to society by reducing the workforce, it would devastate the services, protection, and societal infrastructure needed for children and families at home, school, indoor/outdoor spaces, jeopardizing safety from fires, remove protection from predators, accidents, protect against crime or abuse, decrease the labor industry, including at hospitals and urgent medical needs, and impact all public and private spaces.

“For this reason, PERK has chosen to engage in this lawsuit.”

Chinese-born American Ming Hsieh founded Fulgent Genetics in 2011. In May, the company made a cash investment of approximately $19.0 million in the Chinese entity, which gives Fulgent a majority stake and controlling ownership of FF Gene Biotech.

The revelation that the company may be able to sell your personal and genetic information to foreign entities may be concerning to many inside the United States.

The agreement signed between Fulgent and the CDC illustrates the extent of data and samples the company may have access to inside the United States:

“Under the agreement, Fulgent Genetics will sequence the genomes of random samples that have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Fulgent will leverage its NGS platform and provide sequencing data to the CDC as part of their initiative to conduct a large-scale genomic survey of the virus using random samples from across the United States.

“Ultimately, the CDC believes this large-scale genomic survey of the virus can provide important baseline information for national and state-level virus surveillance, help define important changes in transmission, help to identify unusual or emerging variants, and ultimately improve the public health response to the virus.”

Fulgent also contracted with the New York City Department of Education to perform COVID-19 testing for students throughout the city. The NYC school system, the largest in the United States, gives Fulgent access to data and samples of up to 1,094,138 students.

NYC Schools contract with Fulgent Genetics (Source)
NYC Schools contract with Fulgent Genetics (Source)

China has been known to collect genetic data on people for years. A story by Reuters in July reported on a Chinese gene company selling prenatal tests around the world which developed them in collaboration with the country’s military and is using them to collect genetic data from millions of women for sweeping research on the traits of populations.

In March, U.S. government advisers warned of a vast bank of genomic data that a Chinese company, BGI Group, is amassing and analyzing with artificial intelligence that could give China a path to economic and military advantage over the U.S.

In the report, Reuters wrote:

“Reuters has found that BGI’s prenatal test, one of the most popular in the world, is a source of genetic data for the company, which has worked with the Chinese military to improve ‘population quality’ and on genetic research to combat hearing loss and altitude sickness in soldiers.”

In February, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center issued a fact sheet warning of China’s collection of genetic data. In the report, the NCSC asks:

“Would you want your DNA or other healthcare data going to an authoritarian regime with a record of exploiting DNA for repression and surveillance?

“(China’s) collection of healthcare data from America poses equally serious risks, not only to the privacy of Americans, but also to the economic and national security of the U.S.”

The NCSC warned that China had already begun what the deputy was concerned about:

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, the PRC aggressively marketed Chinese COVID-19 testing kits around the world, along with laboratories to support COVID-19 testing. By August 2020, China’s leading genomics company, BGI, said it had sold test kits to 180 countries and established labs in 18 countries in the past six months.

“According to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, these COVID-19 labs have been providing Chinese researchers with access to healthcare data from around the globe.”

The fact sheet expresses much of the argument being made by L.A. County first responders. It states:

“Your DNA is the most valuable thing you own. It holds the most intimate details of your past, present and potential future—whether you are prone to addiction or high-risk for cancer. It is your unique genetic code and can enable tailored healthcare delivery to you.

“Losing your DNA is not like losing a credit card. You can order a new credit card, but you cannot replace your DNA. The loss of your DNA not only affects you, but your relatives and, potentially, generations to come.”

Law Enforcement Today requested comment from  L.A. County chairwoman Hilda L. Solis, Fulgent Genetics, Inc., and ALADS with no response.

 

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