The Story of ACID Mitigation Training Academy
Updated: Jul 2, 2020
To understand why I decided to teach infectious disease control to cleaning people I have to tell a short story. It begins with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, (SARS-1) of 2003 which was the first coronavirus to evolve to cause serious illness in people. Viruses themselves were only discovered around the year 1900. By 2003, there were some two hundred known coronaviruses in the entire animal kingdom, four of those agents along with Parainfluenza and Rhinoviruses cause the common cold, in humans. But this novel Coronavirus had mutated into something different because it developed the ability to attach to receptors deep in the lower repository tract of its victims. Whereas the other viruses up until that then, only affected the upper tract, making their victims uncomfortable but ultimately everyone recovered. With SARS-1 not only was the agent highly contagious but by the second week of infection, nearly a third of all those ill experienced the now-infamous cytokine storm. Many of those died from its atypical pneumonia. What is not well considered is that many of the people who died from the 2003 epidemic were doctors and nurses. How was it that in an age of advanced epidemiology and scientific medicine that so many hospitals were unprepared? How could our supposed "cream of the crop" be so lacking control measures like personal protection equipment and proper containment to handle infectious disease? SARS-1 had 8086 documented cases spread to multiple countries, including Canada, and resulted in 774 deaths.
The medical-industrial complex seemed to be much better prepared when MERS, another serious and distinct Coronafamily virus spilled over ten years later in Saudi Arabia. Some fast decision making and collaboration between watchdogs like the World Health Organization and regional epidemiologists were lauded for being able to contain the outbreak. But there have been many other infectious diseases moving into human populations. Antigenic shifts of influenza, i.e., H1N1 and H9N1, Swine Flu, and Bird Flu which have added cases with their own separate and distinct immunity factors, to the burden of Seasonal outbreaks. Those susceptible to one stain will carry sufficient neutralizing antibodies to another. In 2014 there were 28,500 cases of Ebola Virus across spread across several nations. No other outbreak of this fearsome retrovirus has been so widespread since 1976 when the virus was discovered by the Ebola river in the Democratic Republic of Congo, (DRC). One case of Ebola made it to Texas and killed the primary carrier along with two attending nurses. We have had relatively recent zoonotic events with the NIPA virus and Hendra viruses. Zoonosis is when parasites that formerly infect animals find a new host in some portion of the now seven and a half billion humans on our planet.
The point of the story is that none of these facts were unknown among public health officials. Despite that, it now seems to me that everyone else must have been preoccupied, perhaps watching The Apprentice, and failed to notice what is happening in the world of infectious diseases? Myself included in a sense, because the furthest thing from my mind last November when I was taking a refresher biology course is that I would be teaching a course about infectious diseases to cleaning people the following year. Last year my sights were firmly fixed on building my cleaning franchise. With an 80% increase in sustainable sales and adequate profitability the previous year, the Happy Cleaning franchise was well on its way.
All of that would change days after celebrating New Year’s 2020 when word began to buzz around in the biology geek subset community about a new virus in Wuhan China that was causing Respiratory Distress Syndrome also called “ARDS”. That is when my hobby science became very real.
Soon I would learn much more about the COVID-19 virus. After completing the online biology course with Christian Leaders College, I began to audit Professor Vincent Racaniello’s virology class. The Professor is with the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. During this period I also rewrote my entire operations plan for the coming year, which became our franchise “Pandemic Operating Plan". This I published in mid-March. Which for the record is more than a month ahead of any competent guidelines for essential workers subsequently published by the CDC, The National Institute of Health, Occupational Health and Safety Administration and their local counterparts. Suffice to say that I made a call to the Governor’s office and expressed my concerns.
Think about the environment at the time. Our hospital systems lacked sufficient stock of PPE. How could this be when the mathematics of epidemiology has been known for almost a century? Susceptible people, (ST) Infected People, (IT) Recovered People (RT), the calculus and formula is long been established thing. Why wasn't the CDC prepared? Why did they shut the front door, flights from China, and leave the back door wide open (Europe)? Even closer to home, if the brightest minds in America didn’t think to protect themselves with adequate inventories of personal protection equipment and other controls, what does it mean to us lowly cleaning people? What did such constraints mean for the essential workers? Well, in my view it meant that essential workers were asked to get down into the trenches without PPE (initially), we were asked to climb down into the footing ditch and hold tightly to the forms as the cement is poured. Not my people, they had gear.
But we did pivot. The previous training I had provided my cleaning people, in the wake of COVID-19 proved insufficient for spaces contaminated by "people carriers" at minimum we had to presume everyone to be carrying the infectious disease. My program was not suitable even to perform secondary “touch point” cleaning. I am a certified Microbial Remediation Technician, but I had no one else in my cleaning franchise trained for that int he beginning of this thing. So I did what I had to do, built a whole new training program. If I was going to be sending people into the fire, they damn well would have significant knowledge about germs. They would have access to training. They would know something about the immune system, natural flora, and the antimicrobial tools at their disposal.
Meanwhile, each new day I watched the numbers of confirmed infected accumulate, beginning with 40 cases in the USA on January 22nd to over two million cases today. I was wearing a mask going to get groceries in early March. I don’t mind admitting that there was no lack of opinionated people who mocked my precautionary behavior. My wife Cherie and I are both over 50 years of age, and we both have comorbidity factors. At the office we instituted a program for measuring and documenting body temperature and many other physical distancing protocols for everyone’s safety, including our numerous elderly clients.
I honestly don't know what has been more traumatizing. The rising cases or the politicization of the virus. After getting our own house in order and retraining our own people I decided that I needed to continue to fight, and although few seem to be listening I am trying to teach others what I know about infectious disease and what do what ever little I can to reduce our (we are all connected) chances of getting ill on the job. That can be as simple as asking clients to vacate the premises before cleaning. But I took it much further and included many threats that have always been there but hadn't gotten enough attention. Tetanus hepatitis, salmonella, staph, strep, the water borne diseases the blood-born pathogens, all of it.
Public Health is connected like a chain. Health needs to be a higher priority. A virus doesn't care whether we are rich or poor, or whether we have a university education. We shouldn't be waiting for for-profit companies to find and build vaccines for emerging diseases. Companies are in business for their own families, they patent their drugs, they own the technology and that profit motivated process works for some of us, those with the means but it also makes access less affordable for many people. We need to break the medical/pharma/industrial complex and make medicine for every American! Even vaccinating animals is known to prevent spillover. That is what is called a one health solution. We, each and every one of us are connected to every creature on the planet, like a chain. We vaccinate expensive racehorses already. This also helps people. A dog gets a rabbis shot a kid doesn't get bit.
The evidence suggests that Racehorses are worth more than people given in our present system. Maybe God is trying to tell us something about how we operate? But that shouldn’t come as a surprise to my brethren cleaners. How many of us who serve others with our blood and sweat can honestly afford a good health insurance plan? How many of the unfortunate people who work for us can afford a doctors office visit? A few of my customers gripe when I ask them for a cancellation fee. That is after they have been asked, up front in a written proposal for five days notice for a change or cancellation. Some people don't value our time at all. So we have to insist that people value us. But first we must prove that we care about other people. It works both ways.
For this reason, part of our surplus from the sale of our ACID Mitigation Training Academy will be donated directly to private researchers concerned with public health. The bottom line is that we urgently need to invest more in the science that we already have.
David Baltimore, at Columbia developed a revolutionary science in the 1970's called “The Baltimore Scheme” So investigators know that every virus must use mRNA to get its code translated by a human cell. Modern Biochem and Bio genetics has in its knowledge base, the seven categories and their step by step processes that every known virus has to follow to take over cells! Knowing this, researchers, both in the lab using traditional methods and using computer models can isolate the particular proteins and enzymes that do that work. then it is just a matter of testing for safety first in animals then people. In a very real sense, science already has the tools necessary to code a vaccine for every virus. Not to imply that this is an easy nor fast process. It typically takes 12 years to go through all of the phases and to produce a safe vaccine. We are seeing this process expedited with SARS-CoV-19 like never before.
What is lacking to create vaccines for all kinds of infectious disease is mostly just adequate funds to do the lab work. Ask any virologist. We could have had vaccines for coronaviruses already after SARS and MERS but we sat on our hands instead. Reread that last sentence if you didnt catch the essence of it. Check out the story of Ian Crozier, the American physician who contracted Ebola and made powerful case for such investment. No one listened.
Acid Mitigation Training Academy therefore pledges 5% of our surplus to fund ECHO Health Alliance whose job is to sample bats and record genomes so that we have a jump on the next pandemic and vaccine. Ours part is just a small part of what is necessary. We need a strong health care system that all Americans can access. We need military defense, of course, but we also need biological defense. The numbers show that war (barring nuclear annihilation) is not even the greatest threat to human life. Infectious Disease has always killed more people than war has. It just isn't as heroic and to talk about Smallpox, Polio, Measles, and on and on. But the truth of the matter is that more people died in the Civil War from acquired infections than from bullets and bayonets. 50 million were killed from influenza in 1918-1920, many more died than from the whole span of world war!
Also, we mustn’t wait to develop more antibiotics. MERSA and VISA (antibiotic-resistant Staph) is killing more and more of people in the USA, and around the world every year!
Full disclosure, aside from being a biology geek and science nerd, I am also a rather conservative, been to Bible College kinda Christian. The Bible tells us that the first rule in life is to love God and others. 1st Corinthians chapter 13 tells us that love always protects others. I care about the unborn and I also care about the people who are elderly. Surely, there is something I can contribute to the community given my own relevant knowledge and skill set. Similar to what I did when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. On day three from when the 30 foot surge hit the coast, I camped in Pascagoula Mississippi, sanitizing and repairing flood-damaged homes. I am certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification as an Applied Microbial Remediation Technician I hold a separate certification in Health and Safety (among several other bio-related certifications) from the same institution. In the 1990's I taught AIDS education. What good is one’s training if we don't use it when it is needed most? I do not serve myself nor do I serve money. Our daily bread is more than what we have to eat. My objectives have changed given these dire circumstances, but my heart remains hinged to God. This course about infectious disease is my best effort to prove myself useful in a time of national crisis. I hope that you will support my mission. This is me now asking for your help.