Dear Mr. President,

This letter is asking a question and identifying a problem which is likely to be a more critical dilemma than COVID-19 pandemics in only a few weeks.

The question is: while all the world is going through an irreversible serious change with the very same ‘problem’, why is “Run and Hide” The New U.S. motto?  Instead of South Korea or Singapore, shouldn’t USA be the example for the rest of the world by managing to bring the contagion largely under control by combining the transparency, the latest technology, and a responsible approach by institutions and citizens?

I am a medical scientist and microbiologist.  I made half of my career in Europe and the rest at NASA’s Johnson Space Center as a researcher.  After that, I continued as a science columnist and a science adviser.  While working in Europe, I had an adviser role on many bacterial and viral epidemics.  I have 30 years of experience in infectious diseases.  Working as a scientist and an inventor, I learned strategic approaches for acute problems, and the latter work taught me the psychology of the public when they are afraid or puzzled.  This is exacerbated in epidemics/pandemic-like-problems because purely scientific solutions with zero tolerance make no practical sense for them and their critical needs, thus, panic!  Put simply, infections can be contagious and deadly, but can be controlled and cured with existing knowledge and technology.  Yet, panic cannot be controlled and most of the time is the main reason for disease spread, death, and most importantly, uncontrollable violence. We are one of the few nations that allow people a right to keep and bear arms and protect it on a Constitutional level.  So, panic-induced crime takes precedence over COVID-19 in our nation’s security.  Because we cannot remove guns, we must give people the hope and leadership to ensure people are secure. Not only in their persons, but in their property and their right to pursue a living.   

Over 99 percent of America's 28.7 million firms are small businesses. To date, the only relief targeted for them is one or two checks for $1,000 for some employees.  $1,000 paid out to most Americans in the next few weeks is not going to fix this problem.  It is not enough for the poor to pay rent and eat, and for the middle class they will save the money as long as they can.  How does that help stop widespread closures, bankruptcies, permanent layoffs and a total overwhelming of the state level unemployment system?  It doesn’t!   And the fear will continue. And that will spread insecurity and violence even more. The effects of COVID-19 can only be reversed if there is cooperation and no violence.

There are some who will tell you that COVID-19 is the worst pandemic the world has ever faced, but this is not true.   It is very contagious, but not more deadly than Ebola, SARS and MERS. From October 2018 to February 2019, the CDC estimated that 37.4 to 42.9 million people in the United States came down with the flu. In 2017 only Texas had 11,917 flu-related deaths and only slightly less in 2018-2019 at 10,020 deaths.  On the contrary, COVID-19 has the lowest fatality rate compared to other deadly viruses. According to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, while the new coronavirus pneumonia has a case fatality rate (CFR) of 2.65-3.2%, Ebola has a CFR as high as 50%, MERS has a CFR of 34.4% and SARS has a CFR of 14-15%.  While reasonable precautions recommended by qualified scientists should be followed, the public should be trained daily on TV, and the government has already shown it can enlist celebrities to do this.  While people know to wash their hands and not touch their face, there is little education concerning transmission on plastic or other surfaces (e,g, cans, bottles, bags) after they shop. 

Keeping HEALTHY people home definitely will not change the infection or death ratio because of the way of COVID-19 spreads with today’s application.  Because people will keep keep shopping, will receive packages, and walk outside for their needs and enter homes with their shoes.  Stopping the economy and fearmongering, on consolidating in large businesses, is not the way to solve the problem either.  The unique expertise and industry brought by small business will also be lost and change our leadership role.

Rather, I recommend a measured response that keeps America working and reduces unnecessary risk.  With the strategy being applied today, poor families and small businesses have no hope or choice and will find ways to do what they need to do that will be secret and unsafe.  To protect against this, here are a few recommendations:

1.  Allow work to continue for those businesses that intrinsically have or impose measures that minimize transmission.  This is not a one-size-fits-all issue.  Those who drive to work and work in separate offices do not have the same risk as those who take public transportation and work side-by-side or in cubicles.     

2.  Provide immediate subsidies or grants to small businesses and teachers or professors to prevent further permanent layoffs and closings, allow the continuation of research in controlled settings, and develop web-based schooling applications.  (This is cheaper than putting everyone on unemployment.) 

3.  If partial or full time lay-offs are necessary—the federal government should pay the employees directly at a rate comparable to their former pay scale, within reason.

4.  Provide additional interest-free bridge loans to small businesses, especially those who provide a service based upon touch or community (e.g., restaurants, hair dressers, barbers, veterinarians, dentists, sport facilities and clubs). 

Mr. President. thank you for listening, and I trust you will take action to give us hope and prosperity.



Neva Ciftcioglu Banes, PhD

March 22, 2020

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