#COVID19 Math: Five ways the virus spread so fast, plus 12 ways to operate economies & governments while socially distancing.

Woman coughing while out shopping

The demand for closures of businesses and government operations was supported with sobering statistics relating to the fact that infected people can spread COVID-19 to a lot of other people during the approximately ten to twenty days that it takes symptoms to show up.

Let’s run some numbers, shall we?

  1. Court – If one person goes to the podium to render their plea, and sheds viruses, the podium might be touched by approximately 150 people throughout a misdemeanor calendar call, and approximately twenty to fifty people for a felony docket list.
    – How many family members does each defendant have? Co-workers?
  2. Government Meetings – If a person circulates throughout a room filled with seats and shakes hands, and touches the door and/or speaker’s podium, then anywhere between twenty and two hundred people could be exposed. While the speaker’s podium itself is technically less of a risk, those who do speak tend to socialize more, and the air inside these meeting rooms can go unfiltered for anywhere between one to six hours.
    – How many people attend these meetings? If it’s something important like the budget and tax rates, the room can be filled and overflowing to the point that there are 200 people crammed in like sardines and the Fire Marshal is stepping in to boot folks out.
    – Now, how many people do attendees interact with during and after meetings?
  3. Office Buildings – If you ever visit those forty-story buildings in Atlanta (or worse, the real high-rise buildings in NYC), each of those floors are kitted out by companies leasing the space for the purpose of maximizing the use of the space. Each floor might have, at the most, 100 people on it working, visiting, or doing business on that floor throughout the day.
    – How many people can each person in that building infect?
  4. Fast Food Restaurants – Hamburger retailers can easily accommodate about a dozen customers in a drive-thru lane per hour. With dining room sales, it can add up to twenty people per hour. Morning rush? Count on hundreds of visitors to show up in a few hours.
    – If a cashier is sick, how is it even possible to track down the subsequently-infected people?
    – How many customers actually wash their hands after using a restroom? Employees?
  5. Grocery Stores – By far one of the scariest places during a pandemic. Thousands of people circulate through grocers’ buildings each day, and no one is immune from hunger. The more profitable the store, the more people are thought to visit [and make purchases]. It is nigh impossible to prevent someone from coughing in common areas, where the flow of air throughout the store could be unfiltered and have unpredictable consequences.
    – How many products are not easily disinfected? How many times are these touched?
    – How many times does the average customer visit grocery stores during a week?

While governments reacted and ordered shut-downs, it was still too late; it is ultimately up to the public to do the right thing; disruptions to both business and government operations can be kept to a minimum while social distancing is used to stay safe – here are twelve ideas:

  1. Video Chat – Video chat software is used at jails, ATMs, music lessons… the list goes on. IDs can be easily verified via scanners such as the ones on the new Georgia Tag Renewal kiosks. We should be able to access government services at secure kiosks / work centers. Chat services can trim $1,000+ per worker per year from expenditures.
  2. Document / Book Scanners – If you visit any modern law library, the scanners are impressive; the scanning speed and size of the resulting PDF files leave paper-based systems in the history books. Kiss mailing & copy costs, and processing delays, goodbye.
  3. Internet Forms– Evictions, small claims, and civil courts currently use remote technologies similar to the federal district courts’ PACER and CM/ECF which accept documents over the Internet. Businesses can make use of similar technology to manage documents, projects, and work teams. Wave goodbye to processing delays and costs.
  4. ATM Payment Kiosks – Automatic Teller Machines should be enabled to send or deposit money into accounts held by businesses and government entities. Child Support offices in Georgia now use the technology, as do detention facilities. Tax bills should be payable at ATMs nationwide, and accept credit card, debit, and cash payments. Staff time can be used for real work instead of shuffling stacks of paper and hand-writing receipts.
  5. Pick and Place teller windows for retailers – Pharmacies use this method to pull stock and deliver prescriptions within half an hour. Restaurants and retail stores are finally climbing aboard this via their in-house apps and website order / curbside pickup systems. For warehouse retailers with larger facilities, department-specific staff can do the picking and place items into robotic carts (a few distribution warehouses do this already).
  6. Online Chat – Chat apps used apply to police departments, government agencies, and courthouses with dedicated chat apps offering an alternative to a telephone conversation – this method of communication allows the Deaf easier access to services.
  7. Expanded Use of Courier Services – Your local pizza and Chinese food shops offer local delivery on demand. Nearly every county court system makes use of a dedicated team of local process servers, too. More businesses need to offer delivery, with couriers offering local delivery from any business near a customer’s designated delivery location.
  8. One Application for All Social Benefits – There should not be a separate paper application for each social benefit. A single application (with supplemental data provided only when circumstances require it) could reduce required contacts with agencies. Tax return data could be used to pre-qualify benefits applicants within an hour. Reducing the waste of time to filling out numerous forms can save a family between 10 and 20 hours of time, while saving governments and NGOs thousands of dollars on staff time used to enter data from written forms into computers.
  9. Free the Education – Self-study modules including lecture videos and interactive testing are currently in use at large companies to train thousands of employees each year. College courses at public institutions should be offered the same way, free of charge, except for costs of supplies, books, certification tests, and hands-on work such as laboratory work. Options towards upward mobility tend to have a positive effect on economies.
  10. Expand Access to Care – When people run into stress, especially when coping with a novel situation, lives can be destroyed quickly. One bad day, week, or month can cost someone everything they’ve ever earned. Access to care can enable a person to recover quickly. If people want to buy into the Medicare / Medicaid care system, then they should be able to qualify without delay, and be offered a sliding scale buy-in rate.
  11. Smart Justice Saves Lives – Police and prosecutors should focus less on conviction rates and more on benefits to society. Actual innocence proven should result in vacated charges. Drug use should be treated as a medical issue. Dealers of drugs should be offered entry into rehabilitation to earn their way back into legitimate employment, with tax benefits offered in return for hiring those seeking rehabilitation. Police should receive more education instead of being thrown to the streets with minimal instruction. Prisoners should earn market rate for work, with reparations due to victims being paid into a fund that pays victims directly while collecting payments from those owing reparations. Each person who is not jailed unnecessarily contributes anywhere between $10k to $60k to the economy each year. Further, jail time can cost the tax base $40+ per detained person each day, whereas probationers pay fees and their own living costs. Savings: millions of dollars.
  12. Paying Taxes Should Result in Tangible Benefits – Business owners should be able to opt into public directories within the service areas that they pay taxes in, so customers gain access to the full local marketplace. Further, agency service requests could be done via apps that generate and/or use PDFs & file management systems in lieu of reams of paper. Savings: tens of thousands of dollars.

These twelve ideas as presented could theoretically help improve access to business and government services. They are simply ideas presented in the hope of opening a possible path to recovery; it is possible to stay safe and have easy, fast, and efficient access to businesseses, governments, and sources of income. What do you think?

Hope this helps!

About Amy Barnes

Author has extensive experience in Retail, including two years as a supervisor. Educated in Psychology, Financial Accounting, Criminal Justice, and Programming. Work experience in Law Enforcement, Security (IT), Programming (REALBasic, SQL, VB, JAVA), Retail.
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