Beating Tomorrow’s Virus Today
Working on healthcare policy for more than twenty years did not prepare me for the extraordinary speed at which Covid-19 spread from Wuhan, China to New York City and then from Los Angeles to New Delhi, India. What’s more, the uneven, often reckless, response to the Coronavirus from global health organizations and national governments has left myriad healthcare experts disheartened.
A legitimate concern, regardless of one’s politics, is over how we might close this chapter on Covid-19—moving from lockdowns to re-openings—as we simultaneously prepare for the next great health crisis. What we know for certain is that we cannot fight tomorrow’s pandemic by just looking backward at Covid-19. Medical progress requires innovation. The arrival of the next pandemic as serious as Coronavirus is a matter of when, not if, and it could come from any corner of the globe.
So, even as we continue to fight the spread of this pandemic, we must keep diligent watch and make ready for the next great outbreak.
The United States, like most nations, was not adequately prepared for Covid-19. And what we know now from the emerging data is that what we most lacked were efficient mechanisms and mitigating strategies to control the outbreak. The massive lockdowns—two weeks to flatten the curve—failed to stop Covid’s spread. In retrospect, a growing number of public health officials and economists are arguing—based on the evidence—that the harm caused by sustained lockdowns is far worse than the harm caused by the disease itself.
What if – in the midst of a pandemic – we had the technology or a tool to keep schools open or to keep businesses from shuttering? An innovation to keep the air we breathe indoors and the surfaces we touch virus free. We could have avoided the widespread, protracted Covid lockdowns and school closings which have had a devastating impact on economies and lives. A brief glimpse at the lockdown-harm imposed on our children underscores the need for such an innovation.
For children, the adverse consequences of school closures is not a matter for public debate. We know – from the data – that school closures resulted in high social and economic costs for people across communities. UNESCO has reported that closing schools was “particularly severe for the most vulnerable and marginalized boys and girls and their families. The resulting disruptions exacerbate already existing disparities within the education system but also in other aspects of their lives.” As reported by UNESCO (and myriad other research-based, public health organizations) in addition to losing actual life-years, children suffered from countless harms from shutdowns, including:
- Interrupted Learning
- Poor Nutrition
- Confusion and Stress
- Economic Hardship
- Health Problems
- Increased Dropout Rates
- Increased Exposure to Violence and Exploitation
- Social Isolation
- Suicidal Pressure
According to Human Rights Watch, “added family stresses related to the Covid-19 crisis – including job loss, isolation, excessive confinement, and anxieties over health and finances – heighten the risk of violence in the home…” The United Nations secretary-general detailed a “horrifying global surge in domestic-based violence” linked to Covid-19 shutdowns.
So, I’ll ask again. What if we had a technology or tool to mitigate the demand for long shutdowns during a pandemic? What if we can get our children safely back to school full-time this fall? We know the science about schools not being vectors for Covid-19 spread, and we know that children are likely to suffer mild Covid symptoms. But still, politicians, teachers’ unions, advocates are still too often risk averse. It seems that for a significant cadre of those ‘in charge’ of making decisions over lockdowns and re-openings we need good science and ‘then some.’
The good news is that the marketplace has come up with a solution – the ‘and then some’ – to keep our schools (and our hospitals, businesses, restaurants) safe and open in a pandemic. The success of Operation Warp Speed in bringing a Covid-19 vaccine to market in a 10-month span is a medical miracle performed by an unprecedented public/private partnership. America’s innovative bio-pharmaceutical industry went to work as government cleared the way of burdensome rules and regulations. What usually takes up to ten years, America’s innovative pharma companies accomplished – the design and testing of a new vaccine – in less than ten months. Nothing short of remarkable – miraculous really – in the history of science and medicine. In a similar fashion, the private sector combined with the availability Covid relief resources (a public/private alliance) has created an opportunity for products such as ActivePure Technology to clear a path forward for safe indoor air and surfaces in schools (and other public venues). We have the technology (ActivePure) and the resources (Covid relief) to implement it.
“Ensuring students and teachers are safely back in schools full time in the fall, is a top priority for federal, state, and local policymakers. Because of this focus, school administrators and facilities managers will need to consider modifications and upgrades to their current ventilation systems over the next several months.” With FDA clearance, ActivePure Technology provides a way back to school (and work) while it allows public health agencies opportunity to make ready for the next pandemic. The technology, developed for the NASA Space Program, targets multiple pathogens, including the virus that caused COVID-19, in the air and on surfaces, destroying them.
We cannot go back to lockdowns and school closures; we cannot fight the next pandemic the same way we fought Covid. New technologies and innovations are the future of medical progress. We can beat tomorrow’s pandemic today.
Jerry Rogers is the editor of RealClearHealth and the host of the 'Jerry Rogers Show' on WBAL NewsRadio.