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Letters to the Editor: How amateurish is our response to COVID-19? Look at what happened at LAX

LAX
In March, a man was found to have been infected with COVID-19 the day after his American Airlines flight from New York landed at LAX. Fellow passengers were not informed.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The total miscoordination of the identification, testing and isolation of passengers exposed to COVID-19 on two flights into Los Angeles International Airport in March is truly only the tip of the iceberg.

This is exemplary of how human beings respond to a threat when there has been no prior thought, planning or policy. We have all been watching as the federal government has shrunk from its duty to protect its citizens.

The virus knows no borders, and to abrogate the responsibility to individual states to coordinate complex medical, logistical and social action is deplorable. Going forward, we need a national strategy designed by the best and brightest minds, and we need a pandemic czar to lead with full accountability.

Please vote this November.

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Tony Haftel, MD, Palm Desert

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To the editor: This former major airline spokesperson who handled the airline’s SARS communications during the 2003 crisis learned several things during that time that remain especially true during this pandemic.

One of the most important is the idea that no matter how clean the plane may be, no matter how completely masked and gloved the crew may be, if infected people are allowed onboard, viruses probably will have their way.

Before I worked for an airline, I was a spokesperson for the University of Minnesota’s medical center. There, several infection control researchers said that if a pandemic resembling the 1918 influenza ever hit, then timely and correct communications to and from public health authorities would be as important as dramatic preventive measures.

Guess it’s true that those who do not learn from the past may be condemned to repeat it.

Mary Stanik, Tucson

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To the editor: That people aboard two flights into LAX in March were not told that fellow passengers were later found to have been infected with COVID-19 highlights why we are now averaging more than 3,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases per day in California.

The state’s antiquated manual track-and-trace methods were totally inadequate when we had 250 cases, and there is no way they can effectively trace the contacts of the current 150,000-plus cases, or even a fraction of the increasing daily new cases.

The state needs to use technology to set up an automated track-and-trace system like what was used very effectively to virtually wipe out cases in South Korea. The COVIDsafe app has been downloaded by more than one-third of the population in Australia, which has managed to get its average of new confirmed cases per day to around 10.

If we keep doing what we are doing, which is having no effect on reducing the number of new cases in California, many thousands of Californians will die, and many more will suffer debilitating effects of the disease for the rest of their lives.

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Walter Flicker, Escondido


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