President Donald J Trump
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20500

Re: CoVID19

Dear President Trump:

I think we seem to be handling the situation way better than the Chinese, who seem to be committing mass (financial, cultural, economic - pick a word!) suicide.

A specific:- We got our people off of the Diamond Princess, with State even overruling the CDC when it was discovered that 14 of them tested positive just before getting on the plane home. At least those people will be in the care of their fellow citizens, instead of some uncaring (and possibly incompetent) foreign government. If they die, at least it will be at home, and they will not be the source of daily horror stories about their fate in some remote foreign country. Some of the others on that flight will probably test positive later, (and even if they had flown separately!) given the test has a high rate of false negatives. Yeah, I do read that you were pissed about this, but I still think our guys did the right thing.

Another:- You shut down travel from China.

Wide area quarantines can risk the lives of millions. When there are only a few local cases a quarantine make sense. But when there are lots of cases they can be worse than the disease they are trying to prevent spreading. Disease does not kill everybody, usually not even most who get it. If quarantine efforts shut down food and energy distribution more people are going to die of starvation or exposure; desperate people are going to break quarantine, and our ability to fight off the pandemic will be limited. It is really weird to see pictures of health workers in hazmat suits surrounded by people wearing no protection at all. It only makes sense in a disaster movie. Hard quarantines should be considered a way to buy time so we can find and retrofit solutions that allow our society to live with a disease; especially one unlikely to have an effective vaccine (like a coronavirus, which is what common colds are).

I am not an expert, and I don't have the numbers. I can't tell anybody what the right strategy is, or at what point strategy has to change. But here are some common sense things I have noticed that you might want to get the experts to consider.

First, we need to get the shit off our streets. The virus apparently survives in and can spread from there. That should not be acceptable to any local government at any time, and the CDC should be able to deal with non-compliant local governments. People who can't (or won't) observe necessary hygiene are the ones who should be "quarantined". Somebody has to decide what else is "necessary" for the circumstances. And we need to make sure facilities are widely available to take a dump and dispose of trash. Actually have a federal somebody take a look at the state of public restrooms (also if any!) in every "poor" neighborhood.

Second, the CDC should look closely at the daily interaction of people with their environment. See if we can show people how to change behaviour (or set things up) so transmission can be avoided. People will cooperate if they are not forced to give up their own lives as a result, and if they know what the right thing to do is. Just look at how many in China spent money on facemasks during flu episodes. Just telling people to stay at home wont work - you have to have solutions that let them maintain their lives - like getting food, and to work. Focus on moving interaction from high contact to low contact, even if it costs more temporarily. Some thoughts here:-

  • 1) get rid of air dryers in restrooms, they blow around particles carrying infections.
  • 2) station a wipe dispenser inside the door of every restroom, and a trashcan outside.
  • 3) have a person responsible for cleanliness at every public restroom; who cleans up, and who is allowed to harass people who leave it a mess into cleaning up. You should not have to step in a pee puddle (or worse!) to take a leak.
  • 4) ask people who are possibly infectious to not go out, or wear a facemask when going outside their home. The signal to others (stay away!) is more important than function.
  • 5) ask grocery stores to be ready to employ people to serve items, instead of allowing self-service. Delivery services are great - and provide base level employment.
  • 6) examine air ventilation systems, and reconfigure them to avoid recirculation and circulation between dwelling units; or between people in a confined space - like a plane or cruise ship, or other public transportation. It should be possible to retrofit open flexible space dividers, and an airflow system that prevents recirculation. The dividers will also discourage butt-grabbers and pickpockets.
  • 7) "tap to pay" is great. But also mint more launderable (ha!!) coins instead of paper money; find ways to get people to keep them, by making it convenient to use them. It is very important to have a backup financial system that works in emergency situations even when IT services are down.

    Finally, medical professionals are focussed on finding a cure, or vaccine. Given that it is the same kind of virus that causes the common cold, that seems unlikely. Is there something ordinary people can do to minimize symptoms, or stave off death? Don't allow the only answer to be "see a doctor"!