- Do gloves help with coronavirus?
- How long does coronavirus live on surfaces?
- How long does coronavirus hang in the air?
- Can masks protect against coronavirus?
You'll see a wide variety of sources come up with scientific studies and (hopefully they really are) expert opinions, which state the same conclusions expressed in this post.
You may also get really frightened & overwhelmed reading all the contradictory statements & theories. (So maybe it's better not to.)
Also, all this is only based on current knowledge. Our knowledge & experience with coronavirus changes, sometimes daily. I think that's part of what's so frightening about it and why it might be better to read less about it, and listen to Torah shiurim (the non-scary ones) instead.
Some Current Facts about Coronavirus
Again, I looked at current reports and what experts claim to know right now — with the awareness that it could all change.
(Heck, even the virus itself is mutating as we speak, although that's apparently normal in flu virus too: Coronavirus Has Small Mutations and Now Has 8 Strains, Doctors Say)
The current quarantines, including the strictest ones (like in Eretz Yisrael) cannot possibly prevent infection with such a contagious disease.
As confining as they are, they simply aren't strict enough to provide real quarantine.
At best, they can postpone infection for a while (whether that means an hour or a couple of weeks), but based on current reports, they are nonsensical.
The 6-Foot Requirement of Social Distancing
- Coronavirus can travel up to 13 feet.
- A coronavirus sneeze or cough can shoot coronavirus 27 feet.
- Coronavirus hangs in the air for 30 minutes after the coronavirus source leaves.
(This means that if you are standing in line or walking behind an infected person, you will encounter their coronavirus germs hanging in the air even if you maintain a 6-foot distance — unless you wait 30 minutes before entering their space. And only if you enter a space you know no one stood for the past 30 minutes.)
Based on the above, please explain how maintaining a distance of only 6 feet from another person will protect against being infected by coronavirus.
Making Allowances for Essential Activities like Shopping
- Coronavirus has been detected on copper for up to four hours.
- ...on cardboard for up to 24 hours.
- ...on plastic & steel for up to 72 hours.
Please tell me how, for example, granting vulnerable people a special shopping hour just for them in the morning will protect them when the grocery carts, shelving, door handles, containers, cans, cash registers, and the checkout can host coronavirus for 3 days?
And on cardboard cartons for 24 hours?
Thou Shalt Wear a Mask
- There are different types of mask with different levels of effectiveness.
- Some masks allow viruses through.
- Most people either do not know how to wear a mask in the way that prevents the virus from escaping out the side or conversely, entering in the sides.
- Most people cannot tolerate the suffocating feeling of covering their mouth & nose (even improperly, but especially properly) for the amount of time it takes to conduct their essential activity (whether grocery shopping or work), rendering the mask less effective.
- Masks pick up germs. Even if they do not enter your nose or mouth, they are still there on the mask.
- Most people do not know how to remove a mask in a non-infecting manner.
- Some reports say coronavirus is transmittable through the eyes, which are not covered by a mask.
- Experts say rather than wear a mask, it's best just to avoid disease hot spots (Rav Avigdor Miller says this too.)
Based on the above, please explain to me how people wearing masks is supposed to effectively reduce their chance of catching or spreading the disease.
The truth is, if you interact with another person AND you are wearing the proper mask and wearing it properly, you do reduce the chance of infecting them (except, of course, for the eyeball possibility) and them infecting you. That's why doctors and nurses wear them.
Yet what happens is that most people do not wear them properly and even if they did, they go home and...then what?
Let's say there is coronavirus on the mask. Now what? How do you take it off without getting coronavirus on your fingers? Or in the air? And how do you dispose of it without affecting yourself or your family members?
Doctors & nurses know how to remove the mask. I don't. Do you? And if you do, how many others do you think know?
The other problem is getting people to follow rules, to wear the masks properly and dispose of them properly. Most people simply aren't inclined.
- Oh, those nice latex gloves — on which coronavirus can live for 8 hours.
- Unless you change or wash them frequently, what is the point?
Let's say a glove-wearer touches a metal grocery cart handle (on which coronavirus can survive around 3 days).
Now there is coronavirus on the glove. And when the glove-wearer reaches for a can of peas only to accidentally knock the can next to it, coronavirus is transferred to that can.
Or maybe the glove-wearer places his possibly coronavirus-infected latex on a can of peas only to discover it is a can of asparagus, which he intends to return to the shelf as he continues his search for a can of peas.
Does he immediately rub down the asparagus can with alcohol?
In general, experts say just to forget about the whole gloves thing altogether. Your hygiene will be much better with frequent & thorough hand-washing.
- At the beginning, no one knew how long a coronavirus quarantine needs to be. 14 days was a dumb & irresponsible idea. 30 days is a lot more logical when you don't know exactly what you're dealing with, and especially if you think it's highly contagious & dangerous.
- Case in point: Some incidents revealed an incubation period of 24 days.
- A great many people do not show any symptoms when infected with coronavirus (like my neighbor's teenage son), so being in apparent good health after 14 days is no indication.
- It's really not at all clear that testing positive for coronavirus confers immunity. There are some people who seem to have caught it twice, but that's not clear either.
- They don't even know how to treat it.
Theories abound, but they really don't know. In fact, this sobering new article pinpoints just how much they don't know. New insights are changing the way the treat it (which means they weren't treating it properly before, though they were trying to).
They don't even know if coronavirus infection confers immunity. It looks like it might not, but that hasn't been proven.
So this is all why I had fatalist attitude about it from the beginning.
After all, if it's so contagious and enduring, AND if a person can never receive immunity from it (meaning a person can just be re-infected again & again), then there is no way of ever protecting oneself against it.
Based on the known reported information at present, the only way to seriously hinder a coronavirus epidemic would be to both shut down & shut up everything for at least 40 days.
This means no allowing citizens from abroad to come home and no going out for any reason whatsoever.
Allow time for the virus to die on surfaces.
Allow time for people who are sick (whether they show symptoms or not) to recover & lose their contagiousness.
(40 days may not be enough to cover all cases. You may need 54 days just to be sure.)
You can imagine the desperate consequences this would bring and why it would not be possible to just impose it from the beginning.
For example, many people do not have enough food stored for 40 days. Baby formula, diapers, medication refills...
And what about people who fall seriously ill and need medical attention? Is there a sterile way to transport them the hospital during that time?
And what about when they get to the hospital? We've all heard how doctors & nurses are being infected one after the other.
So you see, a genuinely effective quarantine can't be put into effect without truly desperate consequences that may be worse than the disease itself (for most people).
Don't Confuse Us with the Facts!
Yes, it does seem to be highly contagious.
But in a recent look into 3 New York hospitals at the condition of those who actually died from the infection, we see that:
- 57 percent had hypertension
- 41 percent were obese
- 34 percent had diabetes
If you do the math, it adds up to 132%, so it's safe to assume that some of these people suffered dual problems, like obesity AND diabetes, for example.
Again, the actual fatality rate is overwhelmingly in vulnerable people (whom we should help & protect).
Yet it's being promoted as similar to the Black Plague, Ebola, or the Spanish Flu.
This can actually cause more death because some places instituted a do-not-resuscitate order in place against mouth-to-mouth on the mere suspicion there might be coronavirus.
People suffering potentially fatal illnesses have been & are being denied proper medical care in order to make way for coronavirus sufferers who haven't even arrived yet!
Fear of coronavirus is already hampering efforts for first-responders to assist in natural disasters, because they're much more cautious how they help, say, tornado victims.
This would make sense in a Spanish Flu pandemic, but not in this current pandemic (based on the current information).
The other pandemics had a terribly high death rate. A lot of suffering also occurred during the illness (and not the no fever, no chills, no coughing, asymptomatic — like with many infected with coronavirus).
Oddly, the Spanish Flu was most likely to kill the strongest of society — young healthy men, making them the most vulnerable group back then.
(Some research indicates that treating Spanish Flu with aspirin exacerbated effects of that disease, and young men were more likely to be given higher doses of aspirin than, say, children. In other words, most doctors didn't know how to treat it properly — sort of like now.)
And I don't know about you, but I'm getting fed up with the overconfident declarations that contradict the previous overconfident declarations.
For example, "experts" initially declared, "Oh, coronavirus doesn't linger in the air; it drops down to the ground!"
Now reports are saying it actually hangs in the air for half an hour.
Initially, we were told that 6-foot social distancing protects from the disease.
But now reports say we actually need at least 13 feet.
Initially, we were told that a 14-day self-quarantine was the oh-so responsible thing to do, but then we discover that really, one should self-quarantine for at least 24 days.
Initially, experts declared that they had a test. Then they discovered their test put out false negatives.
But now, they say, they have a REAL test!
Except that it's mutating and has already developed 8 different strains. But no worries — they have the "right" test for it!
It's so typical of modern science to say, "Oh, yeah, that previous idea was wrong, but NOW we REALLY know!"
And to say it again. And again. And again!
And initially, they were screaming, "BRING US VENTILATORS! WE NEED MORE VENTILATORS!"
And now they're scratching their heads and saying, "Well, gosh. A disturbingly large majority of people on ventilators still died. And the people most vulnerable to lung issues — asthmatics — aren't getting hit so hard with this virus. So maybe ventilators aren't where it's at. What gives?" (source)
They still don't know how to treat it. The malaria drug? Blood thinners? Ventilators? Doing the hokey-pokey?
(I've heard that a steady infusion of vitamin C is the best solution, but who knows if that's true either?)
Yet as described above, despite new knowledge, societies still impose requirements of 6-foot social distancing, masks, etc.
The only way to really make sense out of this is to look at it more spiritually.
And that's where our big rabbanim come in.
Why Our Rabbis are Right
Not long after, they declared support of the quarantine strictures, and a lot of our most prized activities (davening in shul, weddings, learning Torah) either shut down or adapted into a different life form (holding minyanim from porches, etc.).
Are they wishy-washy?
Incapable of looking at the real statistics?
As already discussed on this blog and in so many other blogs, shiurim, magazines, and more, there are very obvious correlations with the shutdown to a lot of mitzvot & prohibitions.
As a result of the shutdowns, people needed to focus on the true essence of a Jewish wedding.
People needed to make do with a lot less.
Tsniyut (dressing & behaving with dignity), shemirat Shabbat, davening, and teshuvah all improved.
A lot of social ills like theater-going, discotheques, and pop concerts fizzled out.
When we look to the metzora (a person suffering tzara'at from lashon hara), we see he needed to cover his face and keep away from others; he needed to call out in warning to others about himself, "Tamei, tamei — Impure, impure!"
And now, most of us walk around outside like a metzora with a mask. We need to maintain a distance from others. And those that are sick do indeed need to tell their families, "I've been diagnosed with COVID-19. Don't come near me."
And like the metzora who lived in dilapidated conditions, many of us have had a dip in our finances and standard of living.
For many people, Pesach was not conducted according to their usual standards. Without cleaning help, how could it be? Even now, some are forced to manage without their weekly help.
Anything in need of repair at home has been staying that way for many. You may not be able to get a plumber or electrician or repairman to your home right now.
Baruch Hashem, our rabbis have been emphasizing this correlation to the metzora.
Here is a letter from Rav Kanievsky about strengthening ourselves in the laws of speech to fight corona:
(Sorry it's in Hebrew. Briefly, it mentions strengthening ourselves in lashon hara, rechilut [tale-bearing], the trait of humility, and foregoing honor & being "right" (ma'avir al middotav). Every person who strengthens him- or herself in the above will cultivate merit that will protect you and prevent you and all the members of your household from falling ill.
And Toras Avigdor put out a dvar Torah on Parshat Tazria-Metzora clearly delineating the plight of a metzora and what we are supposed to glean from this:
Parshas Tazria-Metzora 3: Returning to Normalcy
Those are just 2 examples. You've likely come across many more explanations & correlations of what's going on & how to respond spiritually.
But it's more than even that.
"Go, My Nation, Come into Your Chambers...until the Wrath has Passed"
Hashem put them their, created their effects, and we are supposed respect the rules of basic cleanliness & hygiene, just like we look both ways before crossing the street (rather than just saying, "I have emuna!" and diving into a busy freeway.)
Likewise, our rabbis have been very strictly supporting quarantine rules, both for spiritual & for practical reasons (though they mostly emphasize the practical reasons).
For example, Toras Avigdor has published several transcripts of Rav Miller discussing germ precautions:
- Rav Avigdor Miller on Keeping Away From Germs
- Rav Avigdor Miller on Current Medical Theory
- Rav Avigdor Miller on The Sun Kills Germs
- Rav Avigdor Miller on The Ebola Virus
- Rav Avigdor Miller on What Caused the Virus
A helpful reader also sent me an audio of Rav Miller discussing this topic.
I've also read that if there is a disease hot spot, it's a sign that Hashem does not want you there, even with all the pretty precautions.
In this case, in which there is no place that's NOT a corona hot spot (except for Antarctica, and I don't think Hashem's message is to make a beeline to the bottom of the planet), it's clear that Hashem doesn't want us out & about much.
Finally, there is a spiritual entity behind the disease, which we are supposed to avoid.
Aside from germs, we don't wish to meet any mashchitim — destroyers.
Rav Miller discusses this in Parshat Bo 3: Night of the Locked Doors.
He discusses this from page 1 of the PDF until page 8, but particularly on page 7, (though it's worth the reading the entire booklet to get the full message).
Furthermore, Rav Yehudah Petiyah goes into great detail about this phenomenon in his book Minchat Yehudah, which I plan to cover in a future post.
So despite feeling all fatalistic and "What is the whole darn point of it all?" regarding everything coming out about coronavirus and the feel-good not-terribly-effective measures, I listened to our Gadolim about it and stayed inside much more.
It's a combined physical & spiritual event, and needs to be responded to with combined physical & spiritual efforts.
Where is the Love & Compassion?
A part of me is still waiting for things to go back to "normal," even though I know that's not realistic. But I think it's also normal to feel that way.
Right now, Hashem has sent us a pandemic that, for the most part, is actually not so deadly and not even so torturous (again, for most people, not all).
We receive the strictures & fear & limitations without the really awful springboard (like mass suffering & death).
We receive the same strictures & limitations common under anti-Jewish persecution, but without the obvious persecution coming from evil authorities (emphasis on "obvious"). We are not forced to stay indoors because of falling missiles or invading armies or rioting savages or blizzards or natural disasters, all of which would be much worse than the current situation.
We also still have our modern conveniences, like electricity and their appliances, indoor plumbing, running water, and more.
This is a big chessed from Hashem.
He's giving us a pandemic, a disaster, but without the truly insufferable aspects of a pandemic or disaster.
(Though if you know someone close who has suffered a severe reaction to or actually died from coronavirus, that's not much comfort. But it could be & has been massively worse.)
For example, when tornadoes recently ripped through America's South, 1 million people were left without electricity.
In the middle of a coronavirus pandemic. During quarantine.
It can happen!
B'ezrat Hashem, it won't.
And while there have been positive results from all this, as one commenter mentioned, shemirat Shabbat needs to happen inside the home too, not just in the public square.
People need to stop indulging in wasteful or forbidden activities with their phone or computer.
The Internet has been the most diabolical conduit for lashon hara & machloket.
The very tricky thing about liking or disliking posts, email, commenting, blogging, texting, "stories," and more is that you can get caught up in lashon hara or machloket before you even realize that's what's happening.
It has happened to me, much to my chagrin, and despite efforts to be aware & avoid it.
And it has happened to nearly everyone with an Internet connection.
What are we doing in our homes right now?
Yes, there are major challenges & stress right now.
Depending on your situation, it may be difficult to rise to the occasion (like the guys who wish to learn Torah, but are crammed in a small 2-bedroom apartment with 8 children or people living with a spouse or child who is bad-tempered, hyperactive, or mentally ill).
And I'm talking to myself as much as you. I'm also doing the inner work, along with the expected stumbling, failing, then picking myself back up again.
It's all something to work on now, while the chessed & rachamim are still palpable.
B'ezrat Hashem, we'll all do the teshuvah necessary to sweeten the judgement and bring about the Geula in a sweeter way.
As Rebbetzin Heller said at the end of a recent shiur, this is preparation for the much better world that's coming.