Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

FAQ — everything you always wanted to know about the new coronavirus but were afraid to ask

Easy answers for the bewildered

Should we fear it or not fear it?

If you feel a need to panic, do panic but only for say five minutes or an hour. Feelings creep up not for nothing; don’t suppress them. But don’t make it your new default mode. Being calm is generally safer.

The best healing way to panic is to do it as a game. Scream at your loudest (or whisper ominously) and take your time laughing. Do so together with others — great fun! Make disrespectfully fun of your greatest fears. Take no prisoners. If sober, your fear will melt away.

People who play ostrich you might still be able to help laugh about it.

It’s no use to deny things that are hazardous. It’s good to see things within proportion (famine is worse) but it’s also good to believe and accept the existence of real dangers so that you can protect yourself.

Being in terror all the time is not helpful. First of all, those who fear too much might not be able to get the information to protect themselves and others. So, bear the discomfort of getting nervous when hearing the details and trying to understand them. After learning the fine points, you’ll be calmer because you know what to fear and what not.

Doctors work all the time with many unknowables. It might be ideal to know everything but truthfully, we don’t. (Already because no 2 people are the same and this case may be an exception to all other patients.) That’s still no excuse for panic. They focus on what they know and try to get more knowledge. That makes them curious rather than anxious.

Don’t believe everything on the internet and in the news.

Not only fear but also feeling of uncertainty and powerlessness are hard to live with. Devious salespeople will try to sell you all kinds of stuff that won’t help. Use your common sense to weed out the scams.

Try not only to survive and defend your life but also live and enjoy. Make a plan what special task you’re going to do if you’d get stuck at home so that later you can say: That’s what I accomplished during the epidemic.

Is this virus dangerous or isn’t it dangerous?

Yes and no. It is not so dangerous as 80% of those infected will hardly feel unwell and in total minimally 96.6% of those infected will heal without any complication.

However, with proper medical care, 05-3.4% might die from it. It seems 20 times more deadly than the seasonal flue. Especially in danger are the elderly (over 80) and those with preexisting heart and lung problems (including habitual smokers). They should more than others try to not get infected. At the rate it’s going, world-wide, 150 million people could die from it. That is three times the number of people that died in WW II.

Also some younger people might die from it (in their 40s). Perhaps that happens when they get a lot of viruses (doctors without protection) or when they inhaled the virus rather than got it in through touch?

Dogs can get the virus and pass it on but don’t get sick themselves. Kids rarely will get it and pass it on but it doesn’t seem to kill them.

Isn’t the seasonal flu worse?

This new coronavirus is about 20 times more deadly than the flu. But it is not as contagious as the flu. Try to prevent a flu epidemic without vaccination — forget it. But preventing this infection is possible. And 20 times more important!

If we would not prevent its spread, many more would die from this new virus than from flu. So, it is much worse but often can be prevented.

However, this virus uses another trick than other microbes. It still may emerge from people who don’t feel sick yet, who are infected but won’t feel sick at all, and also from people who feel healed. Sneaky! Therefore, it’s more important to prevent getting the virus than giving the virus.

But we are familiar with the flu so that doesn’t alarm us as much. Part of the panic is unfamiliarity; but part of it is for real.

How come some countries report very different mortality rates?

The situation in some countries might be different.

Some countries may suppress the number of deaths for PR reasons.

Many countries under-test. Then the percentage of deaths seem higher. If 100 died, there are probably 5,000 people infected.

The situation of many walking around untested is more dangerous.

How come regular antibiotics don’t work?

Antibiotics work against bacteria. These are tiny microscopical plants that have a great time inside our body and multiply there. Fever is to weaken them and antibiotics are to poison them. The body’s immunity may do the final execution but it may take a week to make antibodies in sufficient quantities, that may also prevent a repeat infection.

Viruses are different. They are more primitive and cannot live on their own. They need to parasite on our cells. They infiltrate the nucleus of cells and force them to make new virus particles. We need to wait for our bodies to create the antibodies to conquer the infection. Stuff that would kill or weaken the viruses would also weaken and kill us.

There is some stuff that may work (PReP for the AIDS virus) but those medications take a long time to develop. Prevention is not only better than cure. Vaccination, in the end, may be the only thing we have.

Those who get very sick from this virus typically have pneumonia. Oxygen under higher pressure may be used to try to get enough of it into the body. If that doesn’t help, an external lung may be used (like an artificial kidney) but this is all in support of health, waiting for the body to conquer the virus. No workable medication has been found so far.

Should we be optimistic or pessimistic?

We should be cautious because we don’t want to risk our life or that of others. But in the longer run, we can be optimistic because this too will pass. Just try to make the effort that you will be around to watch the happy ending.

One should be extra cautious when the reported number of sick is not 50 times the death toll, which probably means that many infected go undetected.

Shouldn’t we all walk around with face masks?

The main way this virus spreads is: you get it on your hands and then you touch the mucous (soft) inner lining of your nose, eyes or mouth. That’s how the virus gets in.

It’s impossible to keep your hands sterile. You handle things that others touched all the time, often unconsciously. Like money, doorknobs, elevator buttons, mail, etc. What is doable and highly protective:
1. Learn to wash your hands and do it before you touch your face or eat.
2. Never ever ever touch your mucous membranes unless you just washed.
3. Diminish the amount of virus you could get. Touch the door handle with a piece of cloth (always the same side turned to your hand), don’t shake hands, don’t kiss. When the danger is gone, you may catch up.

Alcohol gel on your hands is better than nothing but not as good as washing with soap. Maybe, after an alcohol bath, rub your hands on your non-exposed skin to re-colonize them with your natural bacteria.

Wiping surfaces before you touch them or before you put stuff on them that you will touch (books) is better than nothing. Better to let bleach dry on them (wiping with bleach is not enough).

Facemasks are generally unsafe. They give a false misplaced sense of security. They typically work a bit because they prevent you from touching your nose and mouth. But the normal ones don’t stop these small viruses, they typically are not air-tight, you wear them inside-out or touch the outside and they infect you. They are good for someone with the virus who coughs, to less spread the virus. Medical personal should wear them but they know how and have special ones.

What may help is to eat well and sleep enough. These things may fortify immunity.

Are there certain jobs that are hi-risk for getting the virus?

Yes there are. We all can learn from how especially these workers should protect themselves since most people also take money, shake hands, meet tourists, touch railings, etc.

  • Bus drivers. You will touch money, bus passes, etc. You have to regard your hands (and the steering wheel and anything you touch at work) as infected, as if it is radioactive. Keep those hands away from your face until after you washed them thoroughly as instructed and do so when you go home (and when you get home if you used public transportation). Don’t let passengers stand and breathe over you.
  • Rabbis. Stop shaking those hands (and Mizrachic rabbis kissing those hands or cheeks), no exceptions! Not only are you endangering yourself and your family, you also endanger everyone who touches you because you could turn your whole congregation from uninfected to infected. Besides, as you know, everyone watches your every move; if you are sloppy about this, you are telling others they can be too. They whole difference between an animal and a human is ayin, that we can [go against our feeling and instincts and] say no.
  • Cashiers. You will touch money and credit cards. You have to regard your hands (and the cash register and anything you touch at work) as infected, as if it is radioactive. Keep those hands away from your face until after you washed them thoroughly as instructed and do so when you go home (and when you get home if you used public transportation).
  • Health Care Workers. You’re used to think about things like that and you understand a lot about health so your brain is in gear and you will protect yourself. However, your biggest danger is to help the virus spread from patient to patient. You must be extra careful about that.
  • Concierges and Porters. You work with travelers and tourists and handle luggage and money and touch door handles and elevator buttons. You have to regard your hands (and anything you touch at work after your touched the above) as infected, as if it is radioactive. Keep those hands away from your face until after you washed them thoroughly as instructed and do so when you go home (and when you get home if you used public transportation).
  • Cleaners. Especially cleaners of bathrooms. Bowel movement can contain the virus. And the tabs that people use to clean their hands are probably also laced with virus particles. Consider your hands (and anything you touch at work before washing your hands) as infected, as if it is radioactive. Keep those hands away from your face until after you washed them thoroughly as instructed and do so when you go home (and again when you get home if you used public transportation).

Is there any use to try to postpone getting it if 70% will get it anyway?

Yes. The longer you postpone getting infected, the greater the chance:
That enough people got it already and became immune so that the epidemic dies down.
That the virus has mutated to a milder form (happened in China already).
That doctors already will better understand how to prevent the infection to get out of hand and turn deadly, especially in people at risk.
That doctors already have found medication that helps to cure serious cases.
That you smear out the number of infections over a longer period (“to flatten the curve”) to prevent hospitals, medical personnel, and the health system from caving in under an enormous workload (endangering all patients with dangerous diseases).
That there already will be a vaccine to protect you.
That you will belong to the 30% throughout.

How do I prevent infecting people around me?

Tell them to protect themselves (see above). Don’t sneeze or breath on them (use your elbow). Don’t shake hands or kiss. Discard your own tissue and face mask. Don’t share food or utensils or bathroom. Clean and keep your own dishes. Clean your own bathroom. Clean your hands as well as we all do regularly. Stay in when you feel unwell. If it could be corona, immediately call the authorities to get tested. Don’t go to a GP or hospital (to not infect everybody). If you’re ordered to quarantine, don’t cut corners. (Better to miss a movie, wedding or a funeral than to kill people.) Even if you’re allowed to be about, try to work from home. Shop in bulk amounts less frequently. Buy food that doesn’t need refrigeration that will last longer (dried beans, grains, tinned foods). Stock up on medicine and anything you’d need in the next 60 days.

What can we expect?

It will get a lot worse before it gets better. Butch up a bit.

Expect a lot of unnecessary hype and drama around you and in the media. Realize that you are under no obligation to listen to it all.

When some people get sick without known infection route, there is a community-based spread of the virus — anyone could be infected already. Be extra protective of your health. Avoid crowds. Especially, if you’re from a high-risk group, postpone all outing (shopping, doctors appointments, for fun) that are not urgent. Instruct your visitors, housemates, and roommates. Don’t trust those that can’t be trusted.

The health industry will be overrun, more by worried people than the very sick, endangering people who need all kinds of medical support.

Society will become very different but only for a year or two.

Won’t this epidemic die down like the flu after the winter?

We don’t know that. We could hope so. However, it seems unlikely as Australia got the same problems like China and down-under it’s now summer. So, probably this is not seasonal. But after denying the budding epidemic for three weeks, China got it cornered in 10 weeks, so it is possible — though maybe only under a regime without human rights.

What will this pandemic do to the economy?

Obviously, this costs a lot of money. Cities on lockdown means many people losing their jobs, workplaces and businesses closings, the national and international economy going into recession. The poor and the poorer countries will suffer the most. The economy will recover but it will take time. Prepare to live with less and show what you’re made of.

The overly strict measures Israel is taking hurt the local economy early but protect it in the longer run. South Korea is the best in mass testing. There is no prevention without. Other countries could (should) take an example of these two.

Now you’re not yet completely overwhelmed, think about if your job is at risk and what your plan B would be if you lose your income. While the middle class has more savings (that will devalue through the financial crisis), they will be less ready to live with less. Maybe working class people and middle class people should team up. Give some money to the workers and get some knowledge from them about setting priorities.

If you were sick with this virus, will you be immune?

For a short while probably for sure. In the longer run maybe not. And if the virus mutates, you might not be immune to the new variant.

What is the connection between this outbreak and climate change?

There is no connection. They kill independently of each other.

But for protecting the planet we need to eat less meat. Climate change threatens to kill us all. This pandemic may kill many people (also from poverty and then hunger) but will not make us go extinct.

But to prevent such outbreaks in the future, it would be good to forbid everyone on the whole planet (execute people who violate this) from killing and eating animals that are not domesticated for centuries (if at all) and forbid giving ground meat to vegetarian animals. Take your yearly flu shot and vaccinate your kids with anything they have.

Read my earlier posts on the coronavirus here:
● Coronavirus and Politics
● It most likely will happen to you but you have a big chance to survive
● How dangerous may we expect such a new virus to be?
● It seems very possible that the coronavirus is spreading in Jerusalem already
● Know this about the newest Coronavirus
● Coronavirus fears? Come to Israel (if it lets you in)!
● The Israeli Ministry of health’s coronavirus preventative guidelines are faulty

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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