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updated 2:54 PM CDT, Jul 28, 2018

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Should healthcare focus be more on most vulnerable to ensure re-opening stays?

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With a growing number of studies from around the world suggesting that the number of coronavirus cases may be 10 or more times greater than the number we are officially counting, the inescapable fact is that if that is accurate, the number of deaths becomes a small fraction of the total cases.  
 
While nothing can minimize the tragedy of the COVID-19 death toll, no matter if the percentage of deaths is diminished by the numbers, it is beyond logic to want to put a particular focus on the most vulnerable as society re-opens, so it can be helped to remain open.
 
Official statistics make clear that the most vulnerable segment is made up of the elderly and those with underlying health-impacting conditions.
 
Michael NassirianMichael NassirianIt's not unfair to make the point that while many of the vulnerable, particularly the elderly, are not in the workforce, we targeted all of society for equal coronavirus protection and thus pushed what the labor department projects as a possible 40 million people out of their jobs. That has created a virus-rivaling society segment beset by pervasive physical and mental health problems and social ills that include crime and abuse.
 
Many of the study results are being challenged by someone. But as one national medical publication put it, "One possibility is that academics from leading institutions around the world- or the tests they employed - are error-prone. Alternatively, these results may indicate the deadly COVID-19 pandemic - with mortality rates generally under 1 percent - is no more deadly than seasonal influenza".
 
That possibility is prompting respected voices to suggest that as the economy reopens, there needs to be a greater effort made to protect the most at-risk segments of the population, the group that is accounting for the vast majority of deaths, as a key step to keeping the economy open.
 
Thus as the nation and each region map plans to reopen, the extent and the virulence of the virus they are dealing with across populations that needs to be digested and community and business leaders need to be brought into the plan to reopen society.  
 
In fact, as what one national publication described as "an escalating showdown between business and government about reopening" is brewing, it would be intriguing, at least to me, if business was hammering government to do more to protect the most vulnerable to keep the deaths down.  
 
With elected officials, whether president or governors, being on television and seeming to be dictators of the action steps the "subjects" will take against the virus, the situation easily emerges into politics, not people.  
 
After all, does anyone not realize that for both a president and a governor running for re-election, how society will be doing on election day with the virus looms large in the decisions they make in May, June, or the months to come?
 
So I reached out to two prominent business leaders, one local and one national, to get a sense of the business view of how we reopen society in ways that take cognizance of how undeadly the virus may be in total while realizing the deaths it is causing are bringing pain and suffering to too many.

Locally, I plumbed the thoughts of Michael Nassirian, former Microsoft executive originally recruited by Microsoft in the early '90s to help with the development of Microsoft Office and windows. He left a few years ago to become an entrepreneur and investor and has become a leader in the Bellevue business community.

David NeelemanDavid NeelemanNationally, I reached out to David Neeleman with emails and phone visits regarding his efforts to get the economy working again with a focus on protecting the most at-risk segments of society and his stark criticism of the CDC and daily national briefings for failing to distribute the most important information.
 
Nassirian had a serious case of COVID-19 in early March that kept him bedridden for most of four weeks with a wracking cough and fever and as he got over it, helping society deal with the virus has become his focus, including by bringing his tech-savvy to the fore.
 
In fact, he has created and is just announcing what he has named "My Immunity Pass" platform to allow employees to return to work and function safely as a key to what he characterizing as "the carnage of closure."
 
His platform's main focus is to "help businesses protect their employees and customers" and he's doing that by developing an App, the "My Immunity Pass," that he says will bring an end-to-end solution for businesses and customers.
 
Nassirian says his team's website is set to go live by the end of the week with the goal of releasing the beta version of the App by next week.
 
"There are many guidelines and protocols being proposed at federal, state, and city levels that are very confusing and none address the specific needs of businesses," Nassirian said. "My Immunity Pass will not only help businesses implement the defined protocols but also help customers identify which businesses are safe to visit," he added.
 
Turning to Neeleman, a key concern is for the 25,000 employees on three continents who are the still-employed workforce of the five airlines for which he is founder or co-owner and the impact on them because if the economy remains shuttered.
 
As a prominent national business leader, Neeleman has amassed significant information on what scientists in various countries are saying about the extent of the virus to guide his view that far more people have the virus than are being counted, and the implications of that.
 
And he waxes critical of what he views as the lack of real information from the CDC, and thus the national daily briefings that fail to provide meaningful information that could be used to help restore the economy.
 
I was able to connect with him because his father, Gary Neeleman, is a former colleague of mine at UPI and my longest-term friend.
 
"In my countless conversations with David, it is never the fact that his own fortunes are dwindling, but always his concern about his 25,000 employees that will be out of jobs in an economy in which there are alternatives to a shutdown. I know that his planes in Brazil are flying medical equipment and sick people all over the country," Gary told me.
 
David points to a recent study, now being widely circulated, by a respected Stanford University epidemiological research team that paints a stark contrast of the demographic impact of COVID-19.  
 
The study, whose results are being supported by studies in Iceland, Denmark, Germany, and elsewhere, was led by Dr. John Ioannidis and determined that those who are under the age of 65 with no underlying health issues accounted for 1.8 percent of all the deaths. Thus 98.2 percent of all those who died had at least one underlying health issue.
 
In pointed questions for those compiling COVID-19 statistics, Neeleman asked: "why have we not been given the daily demographic information, underlying health issues, age, and other determinant factors we know regarding those who are the very most at-risk so we can better protect our most vulnerable?"
 
And he continued: "Why have you not been more specific and detailed in telling the American people exactly how to protect those most at-risk given that we now know how the virus is spread?"
 
Neeleman noted that ventilators and protective medical gear capacity need to be assured and that the federal government must be responsible for providing it. Then it should identify regional centers that are no more than a three-hour flight from anywhere in the US. Military transport planes should be stationed at these centers, he said, so the equipment can be flown immediately if needed.  
 
"These centers should be overstocked with all the necessary equipment and supplies to meet the needs under even the direst scenario," he added.
 
Neeleman posed a series of essential steps that he included in an article he did for a national publication. A key one: "Those who have chronic underlying health issues or multiple morbidities regardless of age. This category must remain sheltered in place, supported, educated and an absolute maximum effort made to ensure they never come in contact with infected aerosol droplets from an unsuspecting, asymptomatic carrier. They should always wear a medical-grade mask when within 10 feet of anyone."
 
"I am desperate to learn more not only so I can try and figure out a solution, but also so I can learn how to better protect my own 85 and 86 year old parents," Neeleman said. "If we had this very important data real-time and updates daily, we could do a much better job of protecting those who are most at risk."

With a growing number of studies from around the world suggesting that the number of coronavirus cases may be 10 or more times greater than the number we are officially counting, the inescapable fact is that if that is accurate, the number of deaths becomes a small fraction of the total cases.  
 
While nothing can minimize the tragedy of the COVID-19 death toll, no matter if the percentage of deaths is diminished by the numbers, it is beyond logic to want to put a particular focus on the most vulnerable as society re-opens, so it can be helped to remain open.
 
Official statistics make clear that the most vulnerable segment is made up of the elderly and those with underlying health-impacting conditions.
 
Michael NassirianMichael NassirianIt's not unfair to make the point that while many of the vulnerable, particularly the elderly, are not in the workforce, we targeted all of society for equal coronavirus protection and thus pushed what the labor department projects as a possible 40 million people out of their jobs. That has created a virus-rivaling society segment beset by pervasive physical and mental health problems and social ills that include crime and abuse.
 
Many of the study results are being challenged by someone. But as one national medical publication put it, "One possibility is that academics from leading institutions around the world- or the tests they employed - are error-prone. Alternatively, these results may indicate the deadly COVID-19 pandemic - with mortality rates generally under 1 percent - is no more deadly than seasonal influenza".
 
That possibility is prompting respected voices to suggest that as the economy reopens, there needs to be a greater effort made to protect the most at-risk segments of the population, the group that is accounting for the vast majority of deaths, as a key step to keeping the economy open.
 
Thus as the nation and each region map plans to reopen, the extent and the virulence of the virus they are dealing with across populations that needs to be digested and community and business leaders need to be brought into the plan to reopen society.  
 
In fact, as what one national publication described as "an escalating showdown between business and government about reopening" is brewing, it would be intriguing, at least to me, if business was hammering government to do more to protect the most vulnerable to keep the deaths down.  
 
With elected officials, whether president or governors, being on television and seeming to be dictators of the action steps the "subjects" will take against the virus, the situation easily emerges into politics, not people.  
 
After all, does anyone not realize that for both a president and a governor running for re-election, how society will be doing on election day with the virus looms large in the decisions they make in May, June, or the months to come?
 
So I reached out to two prominent business leaders, one local and one national, to get a sense of the business view of how we reopen society in ways that take cognizance of how undeadly the virus may be in total while realizing the deaths it is causing are bringing pain and suffering to too many.

Locally, I plumbed the thoughts of Michael Nassirian, former Microsoft executive originally recruited by Microsoft in the early '90s to help with the development of Microsoft Office and windows. He left a few years ago to become an entrepreneur and investor and has become a leader in the Bellevue business community.

David NeelemanDavid NeelemanNationally, I reached out to David Neeleman with emails and phone visits regarding his efforts to get the economy working again with a focus on protecting the most at-risk segments of society and his stark criticism of the CDC and daily national briefings for failing to distribute the most important information.
 
Nassirian had a serious case of COVID-19 in early March that kept him bedridden for most of four weeks with a wracking cough and fever and as he got over it, helping society deal with the virus has become his focus, including by bringing his tech-savvy to the fore.
 
In fact, he has created and is just announcing what he has named "My Immunity Pass" platform to allow employees to return to work and function safely as a key to what he characterizing as "the carnage of closure."
 
His platform's main focus is to "help businesses protect their employees and customers" and he's doing that by developing an App, the "My Immunity Pass," that he says will bring an end-to-end solution for businesses and customers.
 
Nassirian says his team's website is set to go live by the end of the week with the goal of releasing the beta version of the App by next week.
 
"There are many guidelines and protocols being proposed at federal, state, and city levels that are very confusing and none address the specific needs of businesses," Nassirian said. "My Immunity Pass will not only help businesses implement the defined protocols but also help customers identify which businesses are safe to visit," he added.
 
Turning to Neeleman, a key concern is for the 25,000 employees on three continents who are the still-employed workforce of the five airlines for which he is founder or co-owner and the impact on them because if the economy remains shuttered.
 
As a prominent national business leader, Neeleman has amassed significant information on what scientists in various countries are saying about the extent of the virus to guide his view that far more people have the virus than are being counted, and the implications of that.
 
And he waxes critical of what he views as the lack of real information from the CDC, and thus the national daily briefings that fail to provide meaningful information that could be used to help restore the economy.
 
I was able to connect with him because his father, Gary Neeleman, is a former colleague of mine at UPI and my longest-term friend.
 
"In my countless conversations with David, it is never the fact that his own fortunes are dwindling, but always his concern about his 25,000 employees that will be out of jobs in an economy in which there are alternatives to a shutdown. I know that his planes in Brazil are flying medical equipment and sick people all over the country," Gary told me.
 
David points to a recent study, now being widely circulated, by a respected Stanford University epidemiological research team that paints a stark contrast of the demographic impact of COVID-19.  
 
The study, whose results are being supported by studies in Iceland, Denmark, Germany, and elsewhere, was led by Dr. John Ioannidis and determined that those who are under the age of 65 with no underlying health issues accounted for 1.8 percent of all the deaths. Thus 98.2 percent of all those who died had at least one underlying health issue.
 
In pointed questions for those compiling COVID-19 statistics, Neeleman asked: "why have we not been given the daily demographic information, underlying health issues, age, and other determinant factors we know regarding those who are the very most at-risk so we can better protect our most vulnerable?"
 
And he continued: "Why have you not been more specific and detailed in telling the American people exactly how to protect those most at-risk given that we now know how the virus is spread?"
 
Neeleman noted that ventilators and protective medical gear capacity need to be assured and that the federal government must be responsible for providing it. Then it should identify regional centers that are no more than a three-hour flight from anywhere in the US. Military transport planes should be stationed at these centers, he said, so the equipment can be flown immediately if needed.  
 
"These centers should be overstocked with all the necessary equipment and supplies to meet the needs under even the direst scenario," he added.
 
Neeleman posed a series of essential steps that he included in an article he did for a national publication. A key one: "Those who have chronic underlying health issues or multiple morbidities regardless of age. This category must remain sheltered in place, supported, educated and an absolute maximum effort made to ensure they never come in contact with infected aerosol droplets from an unsuspecting, asymptomatic carrier. They should always wear a medical-grade mask when within 10 feet of anyone."
 
"I am desperate to learn more not only so I can try and figure out a solution, but also so I can learn how to better protect my own 85 and 86 year old parents," Neeleman said. "If we had this very important data real-time and updates daily, we could do a much better job of protecting those who are most at risk."

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