Ben Loyola On His Efforts to Fight COVID-19, His Bid for Congress, and His Message of Hope

This Corona Crisis has put everything on hold. No date nights out. Not being able to see family or friends. No Church. No Easter. Even the Easter Bunny is advised to wear a mask.

If you are a politician running for office this year, boy, has the playbook been thrown out. No shaking hands. Certainly don’t kiss babies. This has made practicing democracy and the simple acts of running for office and voting difficult. But we must press on.

I was able to talk to Ben Loyola over the phone during the age of Corona. He is running for the Republican nomination for Congress in Virginia’s Second District. He was able to talk to me about his campaign hardships, and more importantly, what he is doing personally to help fight the virus.

Mike Allers: Hey Ben, thanks for joining me!

Ben Loyola: Hey Mike, how’re you?

MA: I’m good. Hope you’re staying safe.

BL: Yes, amen – spending time with family, spinning all the plates – keeping the business going, campaign, family, everything, so there’s a lot to do.

MA: For sure. On that note, let’s dive right in. I read about what you are doing to combat COVID-19. Would you mind, for our readers, explaining what you are doing? Regarding personally building masks?

BL: Yes, they’re face shields. My engineering firm creates models and simulations, so we create models. We actually have a 3-D printer that normally makes prototypes, and you know, development – anything in production mode you want to go to a real deal factory. But you know 3-D printers – they are incredible for low production. So the National Institute of Health put up a website that masks are being created using 3-D models, and I checked when I saw, not only was the supply non-existent, their stockpiles apparently were dry-rotted, out of date, and that kind of stuff. So it was a really bad situation, still a bad situation.

So, I reached out to the local emergency hospital here, and they said, “Yes! If you’ve got face masks, please drop them by, that would be great!” They said, “Don’t even come in – call us ahead of time, and we will put it outside the bench, put them in a box and we will pick them up, whatever you can do, we need ‘em!” And I was like, Yeah, wow, ok. Great! We found a 3-D model that would work and made some adjustments to it, to make it a little bit better – that’s the engineer in me – and then went to work, and started putting these out.

Hopefully, by the end of the week, we’ve got some more supplies coming in. The model, basically, is like a rubber band, coming around the back. There’s a plastic brim. You can really go to Office Max and get clear acetate-clear book covers, but I’ve actually ordered some optical quality type stuff to make it better – take it to the next level. And so when all that stuff gets here Friday, we will clean ‘em up, and drop ‘em off.

MA: It sounds like it’s pretty cost effective. It seems like the materials are pretty easy to put together.

BL: Yeah. You know, you get a 3-D Model that you’re able to send. You send it to the slicer. The command to the XYZ movements of your 3-D printer – all 3 dimensions – so really the only cost is a role of filament. Pretty easy technology.

MA: How has COVID-19 impacted your campaign? You can’t knock doors, you can’t hold events. How does your campaign go forward?

BL: Exactly. We were running a great campaign, on all aspects, I like to say, firing on all cylinders. The door knocking, the events, and the meet-and-greets, and fundraisers – and all that came to a screeching halt. We stopped the events pretty early on. We cancelled the big rally we were going to have – a big tent rally – and we switched gears and shut those down. And then focused on door knocking we figured would be one-on-one, and then when it got worse, unfortunately, then we switched over and shut that down, so we [have] gone completely virtual. So, we are calling, we are mailing, we are [using] Facebook, Twittering, and just kind of using social platforms. Social media to get the message out. Last night we did a great, kind of mini-town hall with Delegate Glenn Davis and I, with folks just listening in. It was great.

MA: What are your thoughts on, I mean, this (COVID-19) could, at its worst, last up to November. If not for November, what do you think going forward – should we switch to the mail-in option in Virginia? And should that option be pushed more?

BL: Well, I think the word just came out, or is about to come out, that the Governor’s pushed the Primary ‘til later on in June. I guess he has the ability to push it back two weeks – so the ink is drying as we speak. [chuckles] I think he just announced it. I need to get my eyes on the announcement to verify that, but it was interesting to see across the country that several governors that tried to postpone primaries for the sake of safety, but the Supreme Court said, no, you can’t do that. The elections must go on. So, that was a pretty impressive statement.

MA: But do you think we should switch over to a safer system? Mail-in, or some type of at home ballot access?

BL: No. I think let folks come in. Social distancing and absentee ballots are always [an option]. I really don’t think we should touch our system. I kinda align myself with what the Supreme Court said.

MA: And that’s the other thing. Fraud can occur. There might be more of a fraud risk that way. So I definitely understand the hesitation.

BL: Yeah – being in the IT and cyber business, we do a lot of work with technology, obviously, so I am deeply concerned with digital. I mean, you look at businesses that have been hacked, and financial transactions, and personal records. Technology is fraught with peril and it is a chess game to outsmart the criminals. Man, every move we make they come back and people are losing their identities, and their mortgages and equities. I mean, so many things are going on. So to open up our voter system to that, and expose it one hundred percent – that’s risky. Our voting, unfortunately, is very decentralized. A lot of human factors, so, to have a coordinated attack on that is difficult, but a coordinated attack on one company happens all the time. I mean, the government’s been hacked obviously.

MA: What are your thoughts on the Stimulus Package that passed, and do you think, if this continues, will we need another one in the near future? And how would that work?

BL: Well, I thought the initial one was brilliant. It really was multifaceted to support so many people. On top of helping out the states with the unemployment and eliminating the one week wait for those that were truly laid off, whatever, then they backed it up with a, basically, a check to individuals, as well as if you have children in the family, […] providing payroll protection. It really was an effort that I thought was really brilliant in light of this pandemic situation, which is a crisis obviously. So I support it. I really believe we are gonna get out of this stuff, ya know, as quickly as this spread. You get into the herd immunity aspect of it, those individuals with the underlying conditions. God Bless them, we pray for them. But it’s gonna play out, unfortunately, like it has in so many. But the vast majority – 99-98 percent of people. You know it might be a cold, it might be feeling bad, but after that you got your own immunity just as if you caught it yourself, taking a vaccine. The herd immunity starts kicking in. I personally think, and I look at the statistics, and it was relayed in the news cycle, […] I’m looking at the charts and graphs. This is really going to be tailoring off pretty quick on the backside of the Bell Curve Distribution there. I just don’t see it. There’s not enough humans out there to be able to continue this thing on for three, four, five, six months at the level it was.

MA: There’s not even a historical precedence for this either.

BL: Exactly.

MA: I mean, that being said, if you look at the news, your district is supposed to be a hot spot for the virus. What message of hope do you have for the people of VA-2?

BL: Look, we had an incredibly prosperous economy, record unemployment, record label participation rate, all the right ingredients necessary to ensure that people have their jobs, run their business, and live the American Dream. We’ve had a major setback here, the government responded, I feel, properly, and has provided a temporary gap of relief on all aspects from the individual, to the worker, to the employer. The Trifecta of a response that I thought was great, and seeing how pandemics work historically, and now with the technology and innovation that we have, to think that we have mapped the genome out, and human trials in weeks. That’s unbelievable technology! So ya know, this is gonna pass, I think, quickly and the vast majority we were able to do the social distancing, and staying at home, and trying to kinda shut things down, for a period of time and [we] will come back quick. Even better than it was before. We’ve learned some stuff, and we will be stronger for it.

MA: Ben, thank you so much for taking some time with me.

BL: Thank you for everything you are doing. I am a big believer in our Constitutional rights having fled Communist Cuba, so that First Amendment is paramount, and sadly, so many people around the world don’t have it. You’re at the tip of the spear on that. Thank you for everything you’re doing. I appreciate it.

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