When the weather gets colder, we prepare a continuous stream of vegetable soup with ample quantities of garlic and dill weed.
At the slightest inkling that our family members might bring home sniffles, we make gallons of chicken soup, with plenty of fat to coat mucus membranes, parsley for magic healing, and additional amounts of garlic and dill weed. For extra joy and love, matzo balls may also contain some garlic and dill weed.
This is the advice from our collective grandmothers, whose kitchens often smelled like garlic.
It’s the preventive medicine of legend. We do everything we can to prevent disease, often while making it all taste good.
Also, in my family, maybe in yours, too, when the weather got below 30 degrees my mother wrapped my face in the same wool scarf her mother had wrapped around her. I wrapped that same scarf around my kids’ faces, too. The theory was that less cold would get in, and fewer germs as well.
So why is it that now we are having trouble practicing sufficient preventive medicine? Now that there is a pandemic of a killer virus — in biblical proportions — we can’t seem to protect ourselves effectively.
Well… we could do much better. Let’s see whether we can accomplish this, collectively.
The first thing we need is immediate rapid testing for all. Why? Because it exists and it can be effective. Every morning anyone who is leaving the house should spit on a piece of test paper (or take a swab, or whatever) and get an immediate assessment of whether they might be harboring COVID-19. Maybe the tests are not 100% accurate, and maybe early in the disease they cannot detect it, but over the course of a few days and a few tests it would become more likely that any positive condition would show itself. Once positive, we quarantine the family and participate in contact tracing. Think of this as your mother testing the temperature of your cheek as she kisses you goodbye.
Additionally, any workplace that is open should be testing employees daily. Having employees take their own temperatures before entering the building is something, but not a good screening process for a disease that may exist with no symptoms. Think of this as your teachers and the school nurse monitoring your behavior for anything sluggish.
The second thing we need is a few N95 masks for every single person. Why on earth is there a shortage of them? What a great business opportunity! If everyone would wear an N95 mask every time s/he leaves home, for the entire time away, including all day at work, not only would we all be protecting others from any silent viruses we are harboring, we would also be protecting ourselves and our own families. Think of this as your mother wrapping her old wool scarf around your face.
I mean, we could make it fun. Go ahead and decorate those masks if you wish! Put cloth masks over them with your statement of the day! Drape them with curtains, festoon them with jewels! Just wear them. Properly. (Not dangling off your chin or hanging under your nose, please, wear them properly.) All day. Your mother is watching with the eyes in the back of her head.
If we would be doing just those two things — testing everyone daily and quarantining positives, and wearing N95 masks all the time — how could the virus continue to exist?
Had we done this last March, the virus could have been gone by June.
And yes, we really ought to add distancing ourselves from others, but I was afraid folks would stop listening if we made it too complex. Stay 10 feet away from everyone!
So having failed to do these things, now we seem to be banking on vaccines. Why? Because too many people “don’t believe” in preventive medicine. (Believe me, I am as flummoxed by that nonbelief as you are. Further, it seems that those who “don’t believe” in these “infringements on personal freedom” may be the same individuals who want to legislate their religion, and only theirs, under the guise of “religious freedom.” But let’s not argue that now.)
Sure, we can wait another year or so until the vaccines get spread around enough to make a difference. But we don’t have to.
Listen, I’m just a Jewish mother. I want everyone to stay healthy, and to use common sense. After all, how can we protect others when we can’t even protect ourselves?
So let’s do all that. Let’s get rapid tests to everyone immediately, enough for every day for at least three months, and let’s distribute real N95s all around, and put on your face shields if you want them, and let’s all distance. And we can add our garlic and dill weed and veggies and chicken soup, for good measure.
It’s fairly simple. And it doesn’t hurt.