An Egged bus driver told me Thursday night that a friend and colleague of his in Bethlehem had contracted the coronavirus by transporting tourists in a tour bus. Just through the air, he said, hopelessly. I reassured him. Most probably not. Rather, his passengers probably gave him money and he didn’t wash his hands as one should before he ate or touched his face. But he’s young so he will probably not become so sick and heal fast.
The medical world now holds by the bad news that 70% will get the virus and 2% may die of the new coronavirus, which is on a world scale in total, three times the number of deaths from WW II, say 150 million people.
The good news is that there are many strategies to not let this happen:
There are different phases that ask for different measures:
1. Only a few people are sick and many people are in home isolation as precaution. This is the situation in Israel. This is mostly safe.
2. Many people walk around infected spreading the virus everywhere. Sick people have no idea who gave them the virus. This is now in the US.
3. When you get the infection for sure, you need to be isolated and get the best hospital treatment. Most infected will hardly get sick and will not make any headlines in the papers. But they could infect others. China.
4. The later we get infected, the larger the chance that: better medication protocols will be available, the virus will have weakened (see below) and a preventative vaccine might be already available. Later can mean never.
I predicted exactly a month ago: “Another danger of a new microbe is that it hasn’t yet learned to behave itself, so to speak. When it’s too aggressive, it will kill all hosts in no time, damaging its ability to spread. So, over time, new microbes become less destructive, keeping more people sick longer.” And see, the virus in China has mutated there to a milder form.
Prevention: Try to prevent getting infected and try not to infect others. Show that you value life. Try to get the virus as late as possible so that it may have weakened (they always do), more medical knowledge to treat it may be available or vaccination may prevent you from getting it. Hope for the best, prevent the worst (so to speak — up to a certain limit).
Stay up-to-date by reading reliable sources and not internet junk that is meant to falsely reassure or needlessly worry. Assume mistakes in reporting, especially because journalists are good at language and not math. Regular flue mortality is 0.1%, not 1.0%. Don’t trust information from autocratic leaders or countries.
Remember: people who do not feel ill at all or who have healed may still shed and spread the virus! This makes this infection harder to prevent than seasonal flue. Wondered why people were having unsafe sex while AIDS was still deadly? Then wonder why people are now traveling!
Learn how to wash your hands well and do it often. And then, no more handshakes, high-fives, fist-bumps before touching your face or eating and no kisses. Avoid crowds. Stay in unless you must go out. (is it worth the risk?) Put things on hold. Pray. Eat, exercise, and sleep well and enough.
It is extremely hard not to touch your face! But we can learn this. (Once I noticed, that cats after you cuddle them, lick their paws and then touch the places you touched and then rub their noses. No doubt, to remember your smell. Scents are important to cats and may support also humans’ memory.) We humans seem to touch our eyes, nose, and mouth (it itches!) all the time, probably to import viruses and bacteria to infect ourselves to aquire immunity while we are still young and easier able to make a fever and antibodies. Clearly, our evolution included getting to know as many microbes as fast as possible. This backfires when we die from infections.
Remember that in a worst-case scenario, only 3% die. If you want to panic, do it for a short while only. Cry, scream, shiver, sweat to get rid of your fear. These are ways to get over your fear. Your fears are from past events and it’s good to stop hiding them (pretending to be “sane” and “normal”). First cry, then be smart.
Some people will die. Repair your rifts with people who are important to you, now you still can. Deeply mourn people who died so that depression will not drag you down later. Climate Change threatens human survival; this virus does not. But it will tank the economy worldwide. Prepare and work for the survivors having a good life after the pandemic.
Stock up on enough food and medicine that you could stay in for a month.
Most people will have no or hardly any symptoms after being infected but could still transmit the virus to others who could get very sick from it. Kids and dogs are not known to get very sick from it but they can pass it on.
Regionally and Nationally
Restrain people coming in. Order quarantines. Inform the public honestly without causing panic. Contact tracing and containment of its spread are possible. Have enough reliable test kits. Have enough isolation hospital beds. Get money to test and produce workable anti-viral drugs. Get money to have companies create, test, and produce, and then distribute quickly new vaccines. ‘Social Distancing Recommendations’ may not be enough. Have more interesting TV to keep people at home. Close schools and workplaces when doctors recommend that. Take a short-term economic loss over the loss of life (which in the end, would cost the most).
Export your success for the benefit of all. Get financial and medical assistance to places that don’t have the medical care or money (or food or water) to deal with this effectively. Help abandoned population finally ready to throw out their dictators and juntas. End world hunger. Don’t be a racist or chauvinist to only care about “your own.” We’ve seen now how one person infected anywhere can endanger everyone on the globe.
This is a natural disaster but there is much we can do about it.
Anti-coronavirus infection ideas for Orthodox Jews
These ideas are valid irrespective of being scared, worried or not fearful, Jewish or Gentile, religious or secular
Judaism celebrates life (and values peace). We love to make a l’chayim (and say shalom) and often wish each other a long life.
Moses told us to choose life and that the Torah was given to live by, not to die from. Almost anything goes to save your and an other’s life.
It could be hard to die for your principles but it’s actually much harder to live for them — which generally is our mission.
Even a slight danger to life needs to be taken into account and prevention overrides almost all Commandments and Prohibitions.
My rabbi says: Although we have given most of the world this notion of an Afterlife, no-one clings to life here more than us Jews. We know the value of life. Actually, of every second.
When we are able to protect ourselves and others better than the rest of the world can, more people will start recognizing the G^d we believe in.
Although we believe that G^d is in change, we also believe that His supervision does not nullify our responsibilities. So we look both ways before we cross a street, buckle up in a car and try to take care of our health. Many Jews choose to work in healthcare. The Talmud reminds us that if we want to walk around barefooted, G^d doesn’t want to know us.
Once, I got the flu the day before Yom Kippur. I stayed home the whole day because I didn’t want to infect anyone. And I drank water (the rabbinic amounts) the whole day. It was an experience to never forget. I’m ready not to hear the Megilah and not to hear the Torah for as long as it takes.
Famous is the story of the guy who, during a flood, is found in his home by rescuers in a boat looking for people to save. But he refuses to board because “I’ve been pious all my life and G^d will save me.” The water rises and he goes up a floor. A hovercraft spots him but he refuses again for the same reason. The water rises more and a helicopter finds him sitting on the roof. Repeat of his refusal. Water rises more and he drowns. Goes straight to Heaven (he really was very pious all his life) and indignantly and incredulously storms to the Heavenly Thrown. “I served You all my life most faithfully and You let me drown!” To which the Almighty replies softly: “Well, I did send you a boat, a hovercraft, and a helicopter.”
Famous is the old man who refuses to eat on Yom Kippur though his doctor says he should. Says his rabbi (trying to save his life): If you fast, I will not give you an aliyah anymore because apparently, you stopped believing in G^d. Says the man: “But I want to fast to show my love for G^d. As I have done since I was 12 years old.” Says the rabbi: If you endanger your health against doctor’s orders, you show that you have left Orthodox Judaism because Judaism teaches to guard your life.
If I understand Mishnah Avot 5:12 well, then plagues tell us that we ignore our duties to feed the poor. Well, 9 million people a year die of hunger.
Expect that it will get worse before it gets better. Pray for the best, prepare for “the worst” (within reasonableness).
See how a stable situation can flip in a moment with one person getting a new tiny virus. But G^d can also flip in the opposite direction. Take AIDS which killed 37 million people and now can be prevented and stopped by a daily pill. So, there is always room for hope. Even when all looks hopeless (which it often doesn’t). There is no proof ever that now all is lost. If you don’t see light at the end of the tunnel, give it time until you do again.
When we try not to get infected, we also protect others who then can’t get the virus from us.
But, what changes should we make in our religious practice to not get infected and not infect others with the coronavirus?
Forget about the ritual bath. The way to improve the intelligence of the Jewish People is not by more of the stupid ones dying but by everyone getting to use our brains a bit more. Women can go to take a dump in the sea (ask your rabbi) and men can forego the custom for now. Remember that the community of Qumran probably died out because they assumed that being pious was protective and immersion in the mikvah was essential although they saw that men died from contact with the (infected) water.
Don’t kiss mezuzot, Torah scrolls, hands of holy people, cheeks of others. Don’t even touch them with your tzitzit or prayers book and then kiss that.
(The Chief Rabbi is mistaken when he ‘explains’ that kissing the mezuzah is not such an important custom. Firstly, it is not his custom, so why should anyone follow him in this if he never did this himself? Secondly, many are very faithful and loving about such customs, also the less Orthodox. To play down its importance is not the way! Instead, what needs to be said is: Kissing the mezuzah, sifray Torah, prayerbooks, and others’ and our own hands are very beautiful customs but we must stop this temporarily, not to endanger our health and not to risk giving this virus to others. And his Sephardic colleague composed a prayer to besiege G^d to stop the plague. It totally lacks any reference to how, no doubt, poor behavior contributed to this situation — has no pledges by us to stop world hunger and poverty.)
Don’t touch your face after you touch the door handle. Don’t shake hands. Learn to bow graciously. Pray for the health of those making fun of that.
Don’t exchange tefilin or prayerbooks with others.
If you could be infected (even without having a fever), don’t go to shul. When you don’t go out not to get the virus, also pray at home.
If you’re frail, stay home until the situation is less dangerous. Furthermore, if you have medical conditions that put you in danger (half a long left or damaged longs, weak immunity, and the like, stay home.
Don’t eat food at the Kiddush unless you know that the ones preparing it all washed their hands as instructed before they cut the food, put out the utensils. Don’t let others hand you food, knives, a cup with wine, unless they scrubbed their hands too and didn’t re-contaminate them. Don’t grab from a collection of food (a dish with cut veggies, a bag of chips) into which others reach too. Smile and bow and bless but choose life.
The first thing to do when you come home is to wash your hands. Before a bread meal, this must be the order: 1. You clean your hands from dirt, paint. 2. You ritually poor water over your hands as always. 3. Now you take off microbes by washing your hands as doctors tell us.
I took the bus to a restaurant. In the bus, I held on and pressed the button and soiled my bus pass with microbes from many others. In the restaurant, people were drying cutlery with their bare hands (forget about having washed them). The infection is not yet everywhere in Jerusalem. So, I washed as I wrote above to take off everything from many people in the bus. And I took a chance with the few people working in the restaurant.
Shop for food when it’s quiet. Shop for Pesach now. Can you stock up medicine and food for till after Pesach?
These preventative measures become important as soon as the virus starts spreading among the public. This is not the case yet in Israel. However, this is the time to practice. And by the time, community-spread infections will be found, it will be a bit late to start protecting oneself. That would be like looking both ways crossing the street only after someone was killed not watching out. That someone could be you, so be early rather than late.
I hear that in the Netherlands, a rich country, the public fails to understand what to do and GPs can’t do their work because they’re called by patients non-stop. In the US, model state of the free world and capitalism, there were no testing kits and public health authorities were understaffed and underfunded (thanks to Trump’s cutbacks) and so the infection spread undetected for weeks so that now thousands turn out infected. Contrast that with Israel. Israel has used its brains with excellent results. A few thousand people are preventatively home quarantined, a dozen patients are getting the highest care in one central hospital, and no one has died.
What a kiddush hashem it would be if Israel finds the therapies to prevent death and creates a vaccine before the virus becomes endemic here. Of course, antisemites would claim that that proves that Israel has created this virus to kill Gentiles and especially Arabs — just as we were accused of spreading the Black Plague when we were less affected because we more often washed our hands. There is nothing new under the sun.
Earlier blog post about the corona infection:
● 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