S'porean working in US tried warning Americans about Covid-19 but received threats instead

Benhur Lee also advocated for the wearing of masks even when the US CDC was discouraging their usage.

Matthias Ang | December 11, 2020, 07:05 PM

A Singaporean, Benhur Lee, who works at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, had attempted to convince authorities in the U.S. about the severity of Covid-19 in the early days of the pandemic.

This included writing a letter, together with dozens of scientists, to New York City mayor Bill De Blasio, in which they urged him to close schools.

However, his tweets on the Covid-19 outbreak and public health resulted in threats and anti-Asian slurs being sent to his inbox, prompting a break from Twitter.

These were the details revealed in an in-depth article by USAToday on how the Covid-19 pandemic became a "tragedy" in the U.S. and its effects on various segments of American society, with Lee being one of several people featured.

Vindicated over the wearing of masks

Lee soon returned to Twitter, however, with a pinned tweet from March 30 regarding the wearing of masks proclaiming his vindication over the matter.

Currently, Lee's Twitter handle @VirusWhisperer has about 27,800 followers.

USAToday further highlighted that Lee had already been advocating for the wearing of face masks in mid-February despite the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discouraging their use at that point.

He also bought a bag of masks which he handed out to strangers along the streets and in the subways of New York City.

In addition, he also tried to convince his colleagues, who were also scientists, that they were underestimating the virus, and convinced the doormen of the building he worked in to erect a plexiglass barrier between staff desks and the lobby.

Studying the spread of Covid-19 even before Chinese New Year

The feature also pointed out how Lee had been studying the spread of Covid-19 even before Chinese New Year.

At that time, he noted that the speed at which the virus had spread within China was already a sign that there was asymptomatic transmission.

On Jan. 24, Lee tweeted an image of the contagiousness of Covid-19 vis-a-vis other diseases.

The feature then highlighted that Lee also witnessed a contrast in the response of Singapore and U.S. to the virus.

On Jan. 25, Lee departed for a microbiology conference in Sydney.

Along the way, he stopped in Singapore to celebrate Chinese New Year with his parents.

At that time, Singapore had already confirmed its first case of Covid-19 on Jan. 23.

The same day also saw a cessation of all flights from Wuhan, China.

For both his arrival and continuing departure to Sydney, Lee was reported to have been checked by officials with latex gloves and temperature guns for fever.

However, upon his return to the U.S. on Feb. 3, Lee found himself checking in at a digital kiosk without any questions asked or his temperature taken.

At that time, the U.S. had already announced Covid-19 cases on both of its coasts, as well as the Midwest region.

The same day also saw U.S. President Donald Trump declare a public health emergency over the Covid-19 outbreak.

Top image screenshot from Icahn School of Medicine YouTube