Policy Responses

Open letter to Secretary of State for Education (UK) May 4, 2021

Regarding the need to continue wearing face coverings as a mitigatory measure against SARS-CoV-2 in schools

To: Mr. Gavin Williamson

We are extremely concerned at reports that the government plans to stop requiring children to wear face coverings in secondary school classrooms from 17th May in England.  We are not aware of any plans to lift face covering requirements in relation to shops or transport, where people generally spend less time in close contact with large groups.   

We support the general principle of using data not dates to decide on the lifting of restrictions. However, while there is significant community transmission (Independent SAGE’s suggested threshold is 10 cases/100,000 population/week with strong test, trace isolate and support systems, while Victoria, Australia was successful by targeting <1 case/100,000 population/week), we view face coverings (along with other measures such as improved ventilation, air purification, using outdoor spaces, and mass testing) as an essential part of the wider system of control in schools. Masks reduce the risk of children contracting and transmitting SARS-CoV-2, as wearing a face covering in class reduces the emission of virus-carrying particles as well as reducing wearers’ exposure due to filtration.1 Both the CDC and WHO recommend that children wear masks in schools, including in classrooms.2,3 Not only do masks help keep school students and staff safe, they are also a critical part of the overall effort to reduce community transmission and allow the safe lifting of restrictions in general to be achieved as soon as possible. They also minimise educational disruption, allowing children to remain in school, while also protecting household members, including clinically vulnerable contacts, from onward risk of infection. 

This is important both for protecting the health of our children and the staff who look after them, as well as our wider communities. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey has shown that the number of positive COVID cases among school age children closely tracks school openings, closures and attendance.4 After schools opened in England (8th March), the number of children testing positive for COVID-19 increased and by the start of the Easter break, prevalence of infection was higher in school age children than in any other age group.5 As more children have been infected, we have seen increased positivity among young adults, and plateauing of declines in infection while schools were open.5 Notably, we see reversal of this pattern over Easter break, with declines in prevalence of infection resuming across the UK following school holiday closure,5 further supporting the role of schools in community transmission of SARS-CoV-2. 

It is extremely worrying that we saw such marked case rises over March among children, given that schools were only open for a few weeks, and with mitigations such as mask wearing in place for secondary school children (although only recommended when distancing could not be maintained). We note that although there were increases in both primary and secondary school age groups, rises were sharper among primary school age groups, potentially due to mitigations, including masks, in secondary schools reducing the rate of spread. This would suggest that more robust mitigations are needed, rather than removal of one of the few mitigations currently in place. Indeed, evidence from a study of around half a million parents in the US shows that parents of children in school are at higher risk of infection, but that this risk can be mitigated with multi-layered measures, including mask use within classrooms.6   Concerningly, we have seen outbreaks of B.1.351, B.1.617 and B.1.1.7 +E484K sub-lineage linked to schools,7,8,9 suggesting that school outbreaks are contributing to community spread of these concerning variants.

We also know from ONS data that 10% of primary school age children and 13% of secondary school age children have persistent symptoms even 5 weeks after the initial infection.10 Between 7-8% have symptoms that persist for at least 12 weeks. We have an estimated 43,000 children, and 114,000 teaching and educational staff living with long COVID, a syndrome whose impact on children and adults long-term is poorly understood.10 The ONS data indicates that two-thirds of people with long COVID have some degree of limitation in activity,10 suggesting that the condition has important impacts on people’s day to day lives. 

Mask wearing is practised widely in both primary and secondary school classrooms in  most countries in Europe, US and South East Asia, and recommended as an important mitigatory measure to protect children, staff, families and the broader community. In this context, it is surprising that the UK government which has claimed to be ‘following the science’ and ‘following data not dates’, would consider setting an arbitrary date for removing the widely recommended measure of face coverings from its already inadequate set of mitigations in schools, without any reference to ‘the data’.  

On the 6th of April 2021, the DfE published a statement following their review of evidence, in which they said ‘Alongside rapid testing, the available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering reduces the emission of virus-carrying particles when worn by an infected user, helping to protect others.’ A little over a week since schools have reopened after the Easter break, it does not seem possible that new evidence of such weight could have emerged to cause the DfE to reverse its conclusions from the 6th of April. Indeed, surveys conducted by Unison on 7,636 staff prior to this review showed support for mask use among teaching and support staff, and high adherence among children.11 Many schools are expecting their clinically extremely vulnerable staff to return to the workplace despite the continuing message to work from home if possible, and recognition that vaccination is not 100 per cent effective.  Against this background any relaxation of mask use would cause great anxiety among the staff and students at greater risk. 

While a significant proportion of the UK population has at least received a single dose of vaccine, this is not sufficient to fully mitigate the impact of transmission among children on infection rates in the community. Countries like Israel fully emerged from lockdown after fully vaccinating >80% of adults, and only re-opened schools fully in the last  few weeks, with mitigations still in place, including mask mandates in classrooms. 

Millions of children across the globe wear masks in classrooms every day. There are substantial benefits to wearing masks in schools while significant community transmission continues. Given legitimate concerns about impact on children and families from school closures, we highlight that wearing masks can reduce transmission in schools, which will help ensure that children remain in classrooms and continue in-person education without disruption. Evidence both in the UK and worldwide does not suggest harm of general use to either adults or children, and whilst we acknowledge that it may be more challenging to communicate while wearing masks, and accept that some children and adults may not be able to wear them, it is very clear that the benefits far outweigh any potential risks at the current time. We support mask wearing in schools at this time, with exemptions for children who cannot wear them. Clear face coverings may aid communication. We call on the government to provide clear masks for staff and school children, where needed, in order to aid communication and we support exemptions for children who cannot wear masks.

We urge the government to consider the global and national evidence on current infection rates in schools when making decisions about face coverings in school. These should be continued in schools after the 17th May, with review prior to the next stage of the roadmap on the 21st June. To strip these necessary covid protections, when there are already too few mitigation measures in schools, and when rates of Covid-19 are still significant would have consequences for the health of our children and their parents as well as their communities. 

If you would like to support this letter, please co-sign here:

If you have any issues filling in the form or if you’re an organisation that wants to co-sign, please contact Dr. Deepti Gurdsasani at


1. Science Brief: Community Use of Cloth Masks to Control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2, Nov. 20, 2020

2. Centers for Disease Control. Schools and Child Care Programs​: Plan, Prepare, and Respond. Apr. 5, 2021. (accessed 26th April 2021).

3. World Health Organisation. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Schools. 2020.

4. Gurdasani D, Alwan NA, Greenhalgh T, et al. School reopening without robust COVID-19 mitigation risks accelerating the pandemic. Lancet 2021; 397(10280): 1177-8.

5. Office for National Statistics. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, UK: 23 April 2021. 2021.

6. Lessler J GM, Grantz KH, Badillo-Goicoechea E, Metcalf JE, Lupton-Smith C, Azman AS, Stuart EA. Household COVID-19 risk and in-person schooling. MedRxiv 2021.

7. Covid: Mutation of UK variant found in Telford and Wrekin schools. BBC News. 2021.

8. Reed J. Covid: South Africa variant surge probably due to person travelling from Africa. BBC News.Sect.

9. First cases of Indian variant Covid-19 found in Leicester. Leicester News. 28 April 2021.

10. Office for National Statistics. Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the UK: 1 April 2021.

11. UNISON. Face coverings in schools make staff feel safer​. 2021.


Scientists and Public Health professionals

Dr. Deepti Gurdasani, Senior Lecturer in Machine Learning, Queen Mary University of London, UK
Prof. Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK; Independent SAGE, UK
Prof. Susan Michie, Professor of Health Psychology, University College London, UK; Independent SAGE, UK
Prof. Christina Pagel, Professor of Operational Research, University College London, UK; Independent SAGE, UK
Prof. Stephen Reicher, Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Social Psychology, University of St. Andrews, UK; Independent SAGE, UK
Dr. Hisham Ziauddeen, Consultant Psychiatrist, Cambridge & Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, UK
Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford
Dr Zubaida Haque, Member of Independent SAGE and former interim director of Runnymede Trust
Dr Kit Yates, Co-director of the Centre for Mathematical Biology, University of Bath, UK
Dr Zoë Hyde, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
Dr Sarah Rasmussen, Department of Pure Mathematics & Mathematical Statistics, University of Cambridge, UK
Dr Bharat Pankhania, University of Exeter Medical School, UK
Prof. Alice Roberts, Professor of Public Engagement in Science, University of Birmingham
Dr. Alison George, GP, Newcastle, UK
Dr. Peter English, Public Health Physician, UK
Dr. Sakkaf Ahmed Aftab, Chair BMA Yorkshire Consultant Committee, UK
Dr Christine Peters, Consultant Microbiologist NHS Glasgow, UK
Dr Eilir Hughes. General Practitioner and co-founder of http://FreshAir.Wales
Dr Huw Waters. Materials Scientist and co-founder of http://FreshAir.Wales
Prof. Elizabeth Stokoe, Professor of Social Interaction, Loughborough University, UK; Independent SAGE, UK
Prof. Robert West, University College London, UK
Prof. John Drury, University of Sussex, UK
Prof. Yaneer Bar-Yam, New England Complex Systems Institute, CovidActionGroup,
Prof. Anthony Staines, Dublin City University, Ireland
Dr. Jamil Ismaili, GP, UK
Dr Emma Weisblatt MA MB BCh PhD MRCPsych, NHS and University of Cambridge, UK
Dr. Gallin Montgomery, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Dr. Alison Dunning, University of Cambridge, UK
Dr. Jonathan Fluxman, Doctors in Unite, UK
Mr. John Wallance, Patient Group, UK
Ms. Sarah Fortney, NMC, UK
Dr Dan Jagger, University College London, UK
Dr. Katja Doerholt, MSc Epidemiology and paediatric infectious diseases consultant and parent, St George’s University Hospital, UK
Dr. Noor Bari, Western Sydney Local Health District, Australia
Prof Jacqui Hamilton, Vice president UK and Ireland Aerosol Society, University of York, UK
Dr Teona Serafimova, NHS, UK
Ms. Ellie Hutchinson, Royal College of Nursing, UK
Dr. Spoelstra, Therapeutic Vascular Centre, Belgium
Ms Janet Newsham, Greater Manchester Hazards Centre, UK
Dr. Richard Ramyar, London Institute of Banking and Finance, UK
Dr. Phil Hutchinson, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Dr. David R. Tomlinson, University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust and FreshAirNHS Team member, UK
Dr. Lloyd Czaplewski, Chemical Biology Ventures Ltd
Dr. Laura Lyall, University of Glasgow, UK
Dr. Christina Maslen BPharm MSc PhD, Health Evidence Matters Ltd
Professor Pamela Sammons, University of Oxford, UK
Dr Christopher Baker-Beall, Bournemouth University, UK
Dr Jennifer Drabble, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Dr. Dilip Kumar Gandhi, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, UK
Dr Stephen Griffin, University of Leeds, UK
Dr Sandi Hutton, Retired paediatrician and public health specialist, WHSCT NI
Dr. Susan Stallabrass MPH MA Dip.Ed , University of Essex, UK
Dr. Carol Williams, NHS, UK
Dr. Lawrence S. Young, University of Warwick, UK
Dr. Martin Dominik, University of St Andrews, UK
Dr. Kavita Vedhara, University of Nottingham
Dr John Gibson, NHS Doctor, UK
Dr. C. Sears FRCGP, FRSPH, Retired GP, UK
Dr. Andrea Pema, University of Roehampton, UK
Dr. Alasdair Miller, NHS Orkney, UK
Dr. James Brakeley, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
Dr. Anja Heilmann, University College London, UK
Dr. Alasdair Thorpe, Retired Scientist
Prof Alastair Leyland, University of Glasgow, UK
Prof. Richard H. Ebright, Rutgers University, US
Prof. Caroline Fitzpatrick, University College London, UK
Dr N Gibson, GP, NHS, UK


SafeEdForAll, UK
Long Covid Kids, UK
Parents United, UK
Fresh Air Schools, UK
Hazards Campaign, UK
National Education Union (NEU)
NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union
Pans Pandas UK
Clinically Vulnerable (CV/CEV) Families UK

Members of Parliament

Clive Lewis, MP
Kim Johnson, MP
Diane Abbott, MP


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Who Are We?

We are a multidisciplinary network of experts. Our mission is to end the spread of COVID-19 by mobilizing science and compassion into action, advising policymakers and communities about practical strategies to eliminate COVID-19.

The world is in crisis with the exponential spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus and its variants. Defeating the complex problem of COVID-19 requires a coordinated, multifaceted approach. The COVID Action Group has been created as a people’s task force, to offer support to the Biden Administration’s national task force and to communities, and to help guide the country forward. Our group unites experts in pandemics, infectious disease, virology, aerosol and environmental science, health care, mental health, risk communications, science education, business, and law, along with mathematicians, physicists, researchers, communications strategists, and community organizers. We are dedicated to ending the spread of COVID-19 by advising policy makers, educating and empowering communities, protecting the health and wellbeing of the public, and protecting and restoring the economy.

We are a citizens task force with the objective of providing access to scientists. We are YOUR Experts! We are here to reinforce and augment the Biden Administration’s plans, and to share the science with you. To debunk disinformation and to arm you with the information and the tools that you need to make the best choices to keep you, your family and community safe.

What Do We Believe?

We believe we can shut down the virus and build back better. We believe in a safer, healthier world that can stop the virus from controlling us by taking control of the virus.  In order to create that world we must take the necessary actions: up-to-date scientific measures to effectively prevent and stop the spread, as well as community care and support.

An all-hands-on-deck approach is needed to control COVID-19. Here is what we do, and how you can get involved and help spread the message (not the virus). 

Our Plan

  • Provide practical, science-based, data-driven best practice guidance to leaders and to the public. 
  • Disseminate key messaging and combat disinformation through the most effective channels

We inform the public on:

  • How to keep safe.
  • How individuals communities and governments can play a role in stopping the spread
  • How community members can take care of each other
  • Where to turn for help

What WE Do:

  • Regular Briefings 
  • Panel discussions/Town halls
  • Workshops/Q&A Sessions
  • Consultations

What YOU can do:

  • Join  our affiliate,, for community action opportunities, guidance, and support
  • Share our social media posts
  • Schedule an expert to work with you and your community

Our Programs

  • COVID Action Series – Townhall Series on different topics
  • COVID Action News – 
    • Weekly Information Dissemination video (Tips on preventive measures, Covid Care)
    • Monthly Media Roundtable – Inviting the media to a private meeting to hear who we are and what are are doing (Mercury can help with this)
  • COVID Action Consulting – Set up discussions with an expert (aerosol, virologist, pandemic expert, risk communicators, public health officials)
  • COVID Action Guidance – Have a press conference or op-ed each time we release a white paper.
  • COVID Action Socials – Promote and connect the best national agencies and organizations on the frontlines against this pandemic
  • COVID Action Science – staying on the leading edge of science and discoveries, and asking the challenging questions

Our Story

We were inspired by then President-Elect Biden’s words, “I’m going to shut down the virus” and so we formed The Covid Action Group. We are a multidisciplinary network of experts with a mission to advise policymakers and communities about practical strategies to eliminate COVID-19. In December 2020, we wrote an op-ed in USA Today outlining 7 actions that the Biden Administration can take to stop the spread of the virus and 7 benefits if we take those actions.

As scientists, community leaders and strategists, we believe our primary role is to identify what we must do to “shut down the virus.”

As a science-based effort, we must also debunk falsehoods, from the downplaying of the pandemic to the undermining of the role of masks, which have hindered a robust public health response.

Here are 7 actions the Biden administration can implement to foster communication, community and collaboration:

  1. Conduct daily national briefings with clear messaging about how citizens can stop transmission and be safe from disease and death. 
  2. Galvanize governors and mayors and encourage them to support individuals, communities and businesses logistically and financially, so they can sustain and protect themselves while acting to stop transmission. Encourage them to communicate with their congressional representatives and push for a stimulus package that will be needed for success. 
  3. Urge healthcare and public health leaders to adopt established best practices and rapidly identify new cases. Encourage a shift from reactive responses to proactive community-based rapid case identification, from isolation to “supported isolation,” with services for those in need, improving help for so-called “long haulers” suffering from long-term detrimental health effects from the virus. 
  4. Engage business, labor and workers. Foster constructive public communication, volunteer community efforts and philanthropic efforts to give back to their communities during a time of need. Engage their participation in COVID safety in the workplace. Promote workplace COVID safety transparency, standards and implementation for employees and customers.  Promote their participation as organizations in community volunteer efforts to stop transmission. Promote their engagement in opening up safely where there is no community transmission. Promote corporate mutual support of businesses and their workers through the short-term pain there will be for long-term gain. 
  5. Build caring communities. Engage grassroots community leaders to address health beliefs that impact COVID elimination strategies and develop targeted public service announcements that communicate several elements to the public: the benefits of eliminating the virus and returning to normal social and economic life as soon as possible, not waiting for a vaccine; the recognition that asymptomatic and presymptomatic airborne spread of the virus is a major driver of the pandemic; the ability and responsibility of all citizens to protect themselves and each other from COVID-19 and to stop transmission across communities, beliefs and political affiliation. Build collaborations with community leaders and religious groups that represent marginalized communities and minority groups who are dying from the virus at rates three times higher than other groups.
  6. Disrupt disinformation. Build teams to counter disinformation including collaborations of scientists, experts in disinformation, public relations and behavioral science, the press and social media platforms. These teams should be empowered to rapidly respond to disinformation and curtail its wider communication through careful but rapid surveillance and review.
  7. Find legislative solutions. Work to educate congressional leaders to craft legislation that will allow the nation to take the measures necessary now to realize a rapid path toward normal.

7 Benefits to the 7 Steps for Action Now

Reaching zero COVID cases is the fastest route back to normal — and it takes only four to six weeks of strong measures. COVID transmits through two dominant routes: airborne aerosols and direct, close contact. Transmission occurs through symptomatic, pre-symptomatic, and asymptomatic carriers.  People without symptoms who don’t know they are infected are transmitting the virus to others through airborne aerosols or direct and close contact.

Disrupting transmission will minimize fatalities, morbidities, long term disability and economic damages. Our communities can reach zero COVID by breaking the chain of transmission of the virus. Communities that first get to zero COVID will be the first that will be able to realize many benefits, most significantly saving lives.

Benefits Communities Will Get

  1. Get jobs back.
  2. Reopen businesses and operate at full capacity.
  3. Send children back to school for in-person education.
  4. Enjoy dining at restaurants and going to bars.
  5. Have gatherings with families and friends.
  6. Play team sports and attend sports events.
  7. Attend religious services and ceremonies.

Since it will take a long time to vaccinate the majority of the population, the alternative to zero COVID would be to continue this difficult and painful state of repeated emergency lockdowns with no gatherings, no schools, no restaurants and bars and an explosive increase in sickness, death and social and economic suffering.

The sooner we adopt stricter mitigation measures the faster we will reach zero COVID. We have the choice to adopt these measures now and return to a healthy society and prosperous economy quickly — or wait for the virus to enforce these measures upon us, leading to much higher health and economic damages.


Asia-Pacific Zero COVID Coalition Concept Paper

The Asia-Pacific Zero COVID Coalition (“AZCC”) is envisioned as a grouping of Asia-Pacific jurisdictions committed to achieving a COVID-free world by promoting the “Zero COVID” approach to coronavirus elimination. Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam – which have achieved stunning success in their efforts to zero out coronavirus transmission – would be the founding members of the AZCC. By restricting its membership to medium and small-sized jurisdictions, the AZCC would seek to separate geopolitical tensions from Zero COVID advocacy, though the AZCC would pursue close cooperation with China, the United States, the European Union, and other major powers and international organizations.

The world needs the AZCC: even in the face of mutating coronavirus strains and a multi-year timeline for global coronavirus vaccination, most countries do not understand the Asia-Pacific Zero COVID approach, let alone have plans to adopt it. The AZCC would encourage wider understanding and adoption of Zero COVID policies through the identification and sharing of best practices, public diplomacy campaigns, diplomatic outreach, and technical assistance.

Zero COVID Strategy: This approach treats every single new coronavirus infection as a significant threat and rejects the notion there is a “safe level” of coronavirus transmission. It entails clear public communication about the benefits and costs of COVID eradication, strict precautions to prevent the importation of infections from abroad, short and tight lockdowns to crush outbreaks when they first appear, supported isolation away from home for infected individuals, along with other measures. AZCC members are successfully implementing these tactics, which is why their citizens have suffered least from the coronavirus pandemic.

AZCC Lines of Action:

  • Kick-Off Event and Public Diplomacy Campaign: Hold an in-person high-level kick-off conference, followed by a global public diplomacy campaign, to showcase the success of AZCC members and generate awareness of the Zero COVID approach.
  • Share Best Practices: Identify and publicize best practices of the Zero COVID approach.
  • Provide Technical Assistance: Advise other governments – either directly or through partner organizations – regarding the implementation of Zero COVID strategies.
  • Diplomatic Outreach: Members will jointly advocate for Zero COVID measures within international organizations such as the World Health Organization and International Civil Aviation Organization, as well as bilaterally with third countries.

Next Steps: founder Yaneer Bar-Yam ( and Federation of American Scientists President Ali Nouri ( are initiating discussions with officials from potential AZCC members regarding the establishment of the Coalition. Interested individuals can reach out directly to Prof. Bar-Yam or Dr. Nouri or share this paper with officials from potential AZCC members.

Asia-Pacific countries should lead the world on Zero COVID

CAMBRIDGE (January 26, 2021) — American scientists, public health experts, and community activists—under the auspices of the COVID Action Group—have requested that Asia-Pacific countries and jurisdictions assume a global leadership role in promoting the “Zero COVID” approach to eliminating coronavirus.

Members of the COVID Action Group have reached out to representatives of Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam regarding the establishment of an “Asia-Pacific Zero COVID Coalition” (AZCC).

“The proactive response of these Asia-Pacific countries has proven itself to be the best for saving lives and the economy,” said Prof. Yaneer Bar-Yam physicist and pandemic expert and founder of the COVID Action Group.

COVID Action Group co-founder Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding Epidemiologist & Health Economist added “With the rapid rise of more and more SARS-CoV2 variants of concern it is critical we redouble public health efforts to focus on Zero COVID strategies that can end the pandemic and have been successful in many countries around the world.”

The world needs a Zero COVID Coalition: even in the face of mutating coronavirus strains and a multi-year timeline for global coronavirus vaccination, most countries do not understand the Asia-Pacific Zero COVID approach, let alone have plans to adopt it.

Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam have achieved stunning success against coronavirus, and they could speed the global eradication of COVID-19 by promoting the key elements of their strategies. AZCC leaders make “Zero COVID” a national goal and rally people behind that goal. They treat every single new coronavirus infection as a significant threat and reject the notion there is a “safe level” of coronavirus transmission. They implement strict precautions to prevent the importation of infections from abroad. They carry out short and tight lockdowns to crush outbreaks when they first appear. And they provide supported isolation away from home for infected individuals.

The AZCC could promote the global adoption of the Zero COVID strategy through a public diplomacy campaign showcasing the success of AZCC members; identification of best practices for coronavirus elimination; technical assistance to governments interesting in implementing Zero COVID policies; and joint diplomatic efforts to mainstream the Zero COVID approach in multilateral bodies such as the World Health Organization and International Civil Aviation Organization.

We believe any international effort to support Zero COVID would be most effective if it is strictly divorced from geopolitics, though Asia-Pacific jurisdictions could coordinate closely with great powers such as the People’s Republic of China, the United States, and European Union.

The COVID Action Group and its partner organizations are hosted a COVID Community Action Summit January 26-28, featuring speakers involved in New Zealand and Australia’s public health efforts. This summit was open to all and free to attend. Learn more at:


COVID Action Group Urges Biden Administration to Implement More Aggressive COVID Response Strategy

The COVID Action Group has issued the following statement to President Biden and his COVID-19 task force sharing a proven COVID elimination strategy and response action plan: 

“Today, President Biden assumed office amid the worst public health crisis in generations. Now, we are urging the Biden-Harris Administration to tackle this crisis using a proven, science-based plan to eliminate the coronavirus from the United States. Federal-State collaboration and implementation will be essential to its success.

“The vaccine is a part of an exit strategy, but it is neither the only nor the fastest way to eliminate the virus. In the next 5 weeks, we must do the hard work: we must pause any unnecessary activity that would bring people into contact with others, rapidly identify cases and isolate them, and ensure support for those in need economically or otherwise. The America Rescue Plan can support those who need help to stay at home through this period.  

“We also need strong restrictions on international travel with quarantines to protect us from importing multiple new variants. While the current situation is severe, the new, more rapidly spreading variant from the UK that has arrived in the US, and others that will follow, will make it much worse unless we take these strong actions now. The narrative that these measures are harmful economically is false: the more rapidly we stop the virus the more rapidly our economy will recover. 

“By committing to strict elimination measures now, we can dramatically reduce the number of deaths, restore the capacity of our hospitals, decrease the impact on our economy, and return sooner to a better normal life with safe family occasions, and unrestricted economic activities including going to restaurants, sports events, and attending places of worship.”


Open letter on SARS-COV-2 mitigation strategies

From the time when it was first widely recognized as a public health danger in January 2020, to the present, SARS-COVID19 has infected almost 90,000,000 people worldwide, it has killed almost 2 million people with the largest concentration of those deaths in the United States. Almost 50 million people have recovered but a noticeable number suffer from months-long debilitating conditions and a documented but yet-to-be-fully-quantifiable number of patients, including young individuals who recovered from mild infections, have what appear to be long-term damage to major body organs, such as the lungs and the heart. This has happened despite intensive calls from public health experts for enforced mitigation actions. And it is now clear that the virus has adapted to be more contagious; with a strand from the United Kingdom (B117) causing major disruption in the UK and in Ireland. This new variant is highly infectious in adults and children, is now seeded inside the United States. and will present unique challenges for schools and for other business establishments who are concerned with public health.

The undersigned believe that many of the interventions utilized during the pandemic to mitigate against the spread of SARS-COV-2 prior to December may no longer be sufficient to cope with the new variant (as well as the variants from South Africa and Brazil.) For that reason, we believe that the best approach to handling the virus until there is widespread vaccination would be to conduct school fully remotely and to offer only curb-side pickup and no-contact. That said, if indoor activity cannot be avoided, the interventions that have been suggested before the pandemic must now be treated as imperatives. And the interventions must be specifically calibrated to maximize mitigation. Professional and public health organizations are often slow to adapt and reluctant to give specific and solid guidance. This letter is meant to rectify that problem. Below are nine imperatives that MUST be honored if you and your institutions want to maximize the safety of students, staff and/or customers. If you cannot honor them, it is our strongest recommendation that you do not hold any indoor activities that require anything but very brief human interactions indoors.

  • Especially when indoors, masking must be universal and diligently enforced. Masks must cover the nose and the mouth and fit snugly around one’s face; they should be either N95 (or KN95) masks, 3-layer surgical masks,or 2-layer cotton-pleated style masks with a filter insert; if other fabrics are used they should be doubled up around the nose/mouth/face; strongly consider using nose clips to enhance the masks. Strongly suggest a doubled surgical + cloth mask which has been found to offer considerable protection just short of less-widely available N95 masks.
  • Take advantage of any opportunity to draw in fresh outdoor air (opening windows) or move activities outdoors including restaurant service and teaching; if excessive cold is an issue encourage (or provide) outdoor winter clothing and outdoor heaters; do not create “igloos” outside — they function as indoor spaces because they simulate the problems with indoor spaces
  • Deploy portable HEPA air cleaners calibrated to achieve a minimum of at least 4 and ideally up to 6 Air-Changes-Per Hour in every enclosed space including classrooms and bathrooms; this requires that each air cleaner have the appropriate Clean-Air-Delivery-Rate, abbreviated as CADR, for the room volume and that can be determined through one of many free, online applications; a typical K12 classroom would probably have a CADR of 500-800 (cfm). Cheap and easy to make do-it-yourself versions of portable cleaners can also be used but the CADR still must be assessed and ensured. More than one cleaner, if they are insufficient as an individual device, should be used in the same room to achieve the desired ACH.
  • Monitor and maintain a relative humidity of 40-60% and deploy, at least in winter, humidifiers, calibrated to room sizes, if this range is difficult to maintain naturally. Monitor visually for any development of damp spots and adjust the humidity or ventilate accordingly.
  • Carefully and consistently monitor the indoor-air-quality of your spaces and rooms, through carbon-dioxide monitors (which helps approximate the outdoor air-changes-per-hour) and hygrometers (that measure humidity); CO2 should consistently fall below 800 parts-per-million (ppm) and even lower is better; relative humidity should be between 40-60%. For the purposes of relevance and accuracy, these measures should be taken only after rooms have been occupied by people for prolonged periods. Interventions described above should help to reach these metrics.
  • Maximize spacing between individuals as much as possible and reduce occupancy; diligently monitor and maintain that distancing (6ft is the most cited figure.) Note: spacing of any distance is no guarantee of protection in indoor spaces due to aerosolization of the virus.
  • Whenever possible, maintain cohorts of students in classrooms so that if an exposure is documented, targeted quarantining is possible, and allows for contract tracing.
  • Advertise, through clear signage, the most common symptoms associated with COVID19, notably cold-like symptoms and a loss of taste and/or smell, and discourage anyone who exhibits those symptoms from coming into indoor spaces until they are tested and the conditions are resolved; whenever feasible, survey potential occupants to see if they have visited high-risk areas or mingled with potentially-infected persons and discourage said people from entering your indoor space. Testing should be done 3-14 day’s post exposure.
  • Handwashing materials should be plentiful and easily accessible, individualized as much as possible to avoid close contact with other individuals; have laminated signs showing the WHO/CDC handwashing method in easy visual distance of the sanitation materials; encourage frequent hand washing.

As we stated at the beginning the right action now is to move schools to online learning and restaurants to pick up only. Where indoor activities are essential these guidelines can make them safer.

DISCLAIMER:  None of the undersigned nor any individual associated with this letter is responsible for the implementation (or lack of implementation) of any of the above-described interventions, imperatives or suggestions.


Covid Action Group


Extend the temporary eviction moratorium in order to protect the health and wellbeing of families during the COVID-19 pandemic

In order to protect public health during the pandemic, the CDC has implemented a moratorium to stop evictions. That moratorium is set to expire on December 31, 2020. While the stimulus bill that has been passed by the House and the Senate includes a provision to extend this moratorium, it is unclear whether that bill will become law by the end of the year. Failure to do so would  place Americans struggling to pay their rent at risk of losing their homes, exacerbating the already devastating impacts of the pandemic across the country. 

The CDC moratorium provides a critical safety net without which vulnerable Americans will be forced into homelessness or other higher-density living arrangements that are prone to more infections. The moratorium is also critical to protect mental health, child welfare, and other important health and safety measures for struggling families.  

While the federal government must act to provide much needed protection to both tenants and to landlords who may rely on their rental income, it must not allow evictions to proceed in the midst of the worst pandemic this nation has seen in a century. As such, we strongly urge the CDC to extend its eviction moratorium—and to strengthen it—for the duration of this pandemic.


In an emergency people cannot help themselves. We have fire departments, police, physicians, bankruptcy courts and insurance to get through crises.

Like boarding up windows before a hurricane, finding ways to prevent social and economic damage during the pandemic will enable a much more rapid and complete recovery afterwards. 

Individuals are struggling to provide basic necessities, including food and shelter, for themselves and their families. Who will answer this need?

A moratorium on evictions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has protected families from losing their homes. The moratorium is set to expire on December 31, 2020.

The CDC should extend its moratorium.

The long delayed stimulus bill recently passed by Congress is also designed to address some of this need, providing limited but critical financial support, and would also extend the moratorium on evictions.

Unless the CDC extends its moratorium, or the bill becomes law before the end of the year, evictions will be faced by many across the country. 

The eviction moratorium has by no means been a panacea. Drafted into the eviction ban are grey areas and exceptions, which landlords can and are using to continue filing evictions. This shouldn’t be happening. Much damage has already occurred as evictions, for reasons not related to payment, have been allowed. Tent communities have formed. People have been displaced to homeless shelters or are cramming in with friends or family.  Public health measures should prevent this from happening.

Still, the eviction moratorium protects many. 

Thousands of landlords are waiting for the moratorium to lapse, to quickly execute the removal part of the eviction process if it does. Tenants often do not have money for legal representation to protect themselves. Legal aid services have been flooded with cases. 

States and communities should fill in the gaps. An emergency calls on everyone to help. 

Another month-long extension of the moratorium will not solve the larger challenges that the pandemic has created.

Landlords who earn their livelihood on rental income and have obligations such as property taxes, mortgages, and maintenance should also be eligible for support and suspension of foreclosure. Meeting their reasonable needs should not be done through eviction of tenants.

Rental relief is essential because the moratorium does not erase the amount owed in unpaid rent, but rather delays when the back-rent amount is due. Many people who have lost their income and accrued multiple months of unpaid debt will have great difficulty recovering and future rental or lending prospects will suffer. Rental relief should be designed to make whole both the renters to provide rent forgiveness and the landlords to pay their obligations.

As with other aspects of the pandemic, evictions have had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations, exacerbating disparities and societal divides.

More comprehensive protections and a process to restore disrupted economic processes are needed. Still, the more we allow disruptive consequences of the pandemic, the more difficult restoring society and economic activity will become.


We Must Adopt a “Zero Covid” Strategy to Defend Against new and old Coronavirus Variants

The recently reported genetic changes to the coronavirus that have been identified in the UK and South Africa pose new and additional risks to our health and prosperity. These new variants are reported to significantly increase transmissibility from human to human. These variants have already spread well beyond South Africa and the UK and likely are already present in the United States. With hospitals and healthcare workers already stretched, we must take immediate action to minimize importation and further spread of this highly transmissible pathogen. Stopping transmission is also important because it denies the virus the opportunity to evolve mechanisms to evade antivirals and vaccines.

In view of the new variants, many countries in Europe and elsewhere are restricting travel. In the United Kingdom even domestic travel has been curtailed and stronger physical distancing measures implemented. These actions are reflecting the fact that the wide-spread adoption of vaccines are still many months away and unless transmission is curbed, many more lives will be lost and economic impacts will be severe.

We therefore recommend the following measures to be adopted in the US, at the state and the federal level:

1. Limit non-essential travel and require all incoming travelers to quarantine in designated isolation centers for 14 days upon arrival. Banning flights from just the UK and South Africa will be insufficient.

2. Limit all non-essential interaction in shared indoor spaces to drive down transmission.

3. Strengthen widespread adoption of isolation, testing, contact tracing, and quarantine.

4. Adopt a “Zero Covid” strategy to eliminate the virus as rapidly as possible, followed by opening up areas where community transmission has been eliminated (a “Green Zone” exit strategy).

5. These actions must be accompanied with support from the federal, state, and local governments to meet the financial and other needs of citizens during this challenging period. This will require monetary support for people who can’t work during lockdowns; housing and other necessities for those who must isolate or quarantine; access to masks and other pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions; and mental health support for individuals and groups.

We should base these options on the largely successful “Zero Covid” strategies of several countries: New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Taiwan, and Vietnam. These countries instituted strict lockdowns, opening up areas where community transmission was eliminated (a “Green Zone” exit strategy). They have largely prevented new transmission through strict quarantines on incoming travelers. When imported cases do occur, they are immediately squashed by aggressive contact tracing and quarantine procedures, and short local lockdowns. Schools, restaurants, bars, hotels, movie theaters, concerts, and sporting events largely operate normally, as COVID-19 has been largely defeated in these countries. They are enjoying normal social activities and prosperous economies.

After almost a year since the onset of the pandemic, it should be clear that measures a day late and a dollar short result in more infections, deaths, and economic damages. The US has had 18 million documented COVID cases, 320,000 deaths, and staggering economic losses and unemployment. Failure to adopt a Zero Covid approach will add millions of cases, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and trillions of dollars of economic damages.

The COVID Action Group stands ready to help in the development and implementation of these options.