thunderstorm andaman sea phuket thailand
A cumulonimbus cloud produces a thunderstorm over the Andaman Sea off the coast of Phuket. Photograph ©2009 by Brian Cohen.

Just Shut Down the Entire Planet. Problem Solved?

The pandemic of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — which is also known as COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV — has already contributed to widespread panic worldwide which has led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights, the closing of hotel and resort properties, companies going out of business, a rush on toilet paper, and the stock market entering bear territory for the first time in eleven years…

Just Shut Down the Entire Planet. Problem Solved?

…and I have not even begun to scratch the surface. To compile a complete and comprehensive list of events, businesses, and institutions worldwide which have been affected by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus is virtually impossible; but I will attempt to have a crack at doing so with this article, which will likely be an unfinished work in progress — including:

The Hyperbole Continues

Lisbon Airport
Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

Because of irresponsible reporting by members of the media and confusing messages from politicians, citizens and permanent residents of the United States are reportedly now scrambling to get back to the United States before the “ban on travel between the United States and Europe” goes into effect tomorrow, Friday, March 13, 2020 — which is exactly one of the reasons why I demanded that the hyperbole be stopped

…but hey — what do I know?

Do the Statistics Support the Mayhem?

Updated virtually every day, Information is Beautiful has created a nice visual of statistics which are related to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, with information compiled from sources such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

a screenshot of a computer
Click on the image for an enlarged view. Source: Information is beautiful.

According to the aforementioned statistics, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus has been mentioned in the media approximately ten times more than SARS, HIV, MERS, Ebola, pneumonia, malaria, measles, tuberculosis, and 14 other diseases combined.

Although deaths caused by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus worldwide per day is expected to significantly exceed 62 per day, at least 16 other diseases cause more deaths per day — including tuberculosis, which causes as many as 3,014 deaths per day.

Of all of the people who suffered from being infected with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in China, 80.9 percent experienced mild symptoms at worst. Repeat: of all of the people who suffered from being infected with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in China, 80.9 percent experienced mild symptoms at worst.

Furthermore, your chance of dying from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus is 0.9 percent — not even one percent — if you do not have an existing condition.

As many as 46,000 people may have died in the United States alone during a period of time between Tuesday, October 1, 2019 and Saturday, February 22, 2020 from influenza out of as many as 45 million influenza illnesses, according to preliminary burden estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Violence is the reason why 1.5 million people have lost their lives each year, according to data from the World Health Organization — and greater than 3,700 people die every day on roads around the world.

Cigarette smoking is responsible for greater than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States alone — including greater than 41,000 deaths resulting from exposure to second hand smoke, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which is approximately one in five deaths annually, or the death of 1,300 people every day.

At the time this article was written, at least 4,614 people have died of the minimum of 125,288 confirmed cases in 118 countries and territories worldwide, according to this situation report from the World Health Organization pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

What About Another Existing Epidemic or Pandemic With No Cure?

Did you know that another epidemic — or pandemic, since it has affected people worldwide — which still officially has no cure will be 40 years old next year? It has thought to have already killed greater than 32 million people — perhaps as many as 43.8 million people — and almost 38 million people live with this virus every day.

It is called the human immunodeficiency virus infection, which can result in acquired immune deficiency syndrome — both are also more popularly known as HIV and AIDS.

As many as 1.1 million people are estimated to have died from illnesses related to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, according to this fact sheet of statistics from UNAIDS, whose goal is to lead the global effort to end acquired immune deficiency syndrome as a public health threat by the year 2030.

Yes, a lot more about this virus and infectious disease is known today than when it was first recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981. Panic ensued back then, too. Gay men and Lesbian women were unfairly vilified with xenophobic hysteria in association with the virus and disease. People were afraid to use toilets because they thought they could catch the disease just by sitting on them, or shake hands with a person, or even be in the same building with a person who had contracted acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

That insanity eventually abated, and treatments are available today which help people with acquired immune deficiency syndrome lead as close to normal lives as possible — plus, the mortality rate of acquired immune deficiency syndrome has decreased by 33 percent since 2010…

…but as of today — even after almost 40 years — no cure exists.

A Review of What You Should Do

You actually do have some control over the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — even if not everything is known about it yet; and even if your control is limited.

No vaccine exists to prevent contracting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus disease, as the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus; so if you need only one way to reduce your chances of contracting it, here it is — and it should be of no surprise to you as a reader of The Gate:

Wash hands
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.


I have been espousing this advice repeatedly for years — to the point where some readers of The Gate have ridiculed me about it — but I vehemently believe that had people around the world washed their hands properly, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus would not have spread as much as it has; that it would have been better contained; and that no one would be worrying about it approaching pandemic status.

I intend to write a revised article pertaining to washing your hands properly and effectively, as I have not suffered from a virus of any kind in years — and no, you do not need to be obsessive or compulsive about constantly washing your hands either for a better chance to stay healthy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases — including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

In addition to the three videos pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus which have been released, the World Health Organization has a similar list of basic recommendations pertaining to protecting yourself from contracting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — including:

  • Clean your hands properly, regularly and thoroughly with soap and water — or use an alcohol-based hand rub when soap and water are not immediately available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth unless you have just thoroughly washed your hands. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus has a better chance of entering your body than at other areas of your body and can make you sick.

  • Maintain social distancing: stay at least one metre or three feet of distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or sneezes, he or she sprays small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain a virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets — including the COVID-19 virus — if the person coughing has the disease.
  • Practice responsible respiratory hygiene by ensuring that you — as well as the people around you — follow good respiratory hygiene because droplets spread viruses. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu, and the COVID-19 virus. Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow; or use a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Once used, dispose of the tissue immediately in a proper receptacle.
  • Stay home if you do not feel well. If you have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention as soon as possible and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority. National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

The Little Trick I Employed Which Seems to Work For Me

Proper washing of hands has been known to reduce the chances of contracting a virus; but that alone was not enough if I wanted to further improve reducing my chances of contracting a virus. I had to somehow train my brain — and myself — to not touch my face under any circumstances except after I had properly washed my hands and I was confident that they were clean.

I am not sure how to better explain this; but whenever I touched something or someone with my hand, I considered that hand contaminated — and I had to somehow turn a switch on in my brain not to use that hand on my face until it was properly washed.

If you just handled something which was incredibly disgusting — like sticking your hand into a toilet in a public washroom which had not been flushed after it had been used, for example — would you eat something with that hand afterwards without cleaning it? Would you rub your eye with that hand afterwards without cleaning it?

Training and conditioning my brain to adopt this technique did not happen immediately; but my brain now applies the technique subconsciously and automatically as part of what now feels like an innate habit…

…and as a result, I have not contracted a virus in years — despite shaking the hands of people who were clearly ill; and despite having people cough, sneeze, and yawn on me without covering their mouths in enclosed crowded spaces such as aboard an airplane or subway car.


I have said all along that we need to be concerned about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. This situation is not to be taken lightly — it never should have been taken lightly — but we need to implement smart measures that strike the balance between safety and ridiculousness.

That is not happening, unfortunately. Panic has taken over — largely because of irresponsible reporting by members of the media and illogical direction by most leaders who have no idea what they are doing. Insanity has prevailed over thoughtful solutions and rational thinking. No one seems to be listening. No one seems to be leading. No one seems to be thinking.

We are needlessly creating our own dystopian future, which will substantially affect us more than the 2019 Novel Coronavirus itself — many people who test positive for the virus experience mild symptoms at worst and recover rather than die — and the chaos which has been ensuing must stop now before more damage is done.

As for shutting down the planet, which seems to already be happening: not only is it too little too late, as this situation is already out of control; but I am still not convinced that the 2019 Novel Coronavirus ever warranted such drastic measures in the first place based on the aforementioned data and statistics…

…but again: what do I know?

This article is the latest in a series pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in an effort to get the facts out with information derived from reliable sources.

Other articles at The Gate which pertain to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus include:

All photographs ©2009, ©2014 and ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

  1. KUDOS!!!

    Thank you for, once again, being a voice of reason among the rapidly growing myriad of online fear-mongers. I appreciate both your practical suggestions and your tongue-in-cheek approach to this issue. Many thanks!

  2. If only the Chi-coms didn’t conceal the virus for a month. If only the Chi-coms would have allowed world experts into Wuhan. If only the Director of the W.H.O. wasn’t a Marxist. The “belt-and-road” of “if’s” leads back to the Wuhan virus.

  3. Chris. . you have a problem.
    Myself being over 60 I can only pray my neighborhood does not turn into whats happening in Italy.

  4. Chris- You seem to misunderstand the difference between a pandemic and other perils. Smoking deaths – not relevant to those who don’t smoke and easily preventable. Violence – not relevant to those who live in safe places (and easy to prevent by avoiding slums). HIV – again easy to avoid getting. Of everything listed only the common flu is similar (easy to transmit) but the death rate is 10x lower. Do you know anyone who has died of the flu? I don’t. But we know there are people dying all over China and Italy now, and soon at similar rates in USA. If we have 5 seniors in my family who are 80+, and they all catch it, and 1 dies, that’s significant to us In terms of economic cost, shutting down the world for 2-4 weeks is painful, but is the cost higher than the deaths avoided and billions spent on treatment? Many will telework, and many more can use vacations.

    1. Boraxo… (1) Smoking deaths are most certainly relevant to those who do not smoke as secondhand smoke is definitely deadly. And, yes, those deaths could be preventable but since abusers are allowed run rampant throughout our streets, smoking continues to senselessly kill the innocent as well as the addicted. (2) Seriously? Crime happens everywhere! Yes, avoiding some areas – not necessarily slums – can reduce the risk of violent crime but to say everyone can just live in safe areas and not face danger is infantile at best. (3) I actually do know people who have died from the flu, one was a seemingly healthy young adult female just this past year. (4) I, too, have elderly and/or ill family and friends who are great risk of fatality with any seemingly normal illness. Namely, my mother. They are doing the wise thing and staying off grid. (5) The potential loss of income to tens of thousands during this overblown shutdown has the potential to make housing, nutrition, insurance, and medical care unavailable to those living paycheck to paycheck. Sensible measures to prevent the spread of disease would not have had this dire consequence.

    2. I think your comment was directed at me, Boraxo.

      No, I do not know anyone who has died from the flu. Or tuberculosis. Or the measles. Or yellow fever. Or any of the 16 diseases which are currently considered deadlier than the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

      To be fair, I will ask you the same question you asked me about the flu: Do you know anyone who has died of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus?

  5. Hi Brian,

    I’ve read all your posts thus far regarding the Coronavirus. While I disagree with your sentiment in your earlier posts on the topic I must say i certainly applaud you for taking on such heated topic. Well done – now you earned yourself a loyal reader.

    1. Welcome aboard, Adam — and thank you.

      I am not looking for people to agree with me. Rather, I am interested in continuing this discussion as a constructive discourse from which we can all learn — so please join in on the conversation.

      The world could certainly use at least one right now…

  6. I wish the mass media would share this same type of “calm down” message based on facts, but they never will. For some reason they continually perpetuate the myth that the sky is falling. I’ll never understand why our media is so irresponsible. NB_ga makes an excellent point regarding the millions of people who will suffer because of lost income. It’s a shame So many people have drank the kool-aid and lost their minds over this.

  7. Hear, hear! Yes, I understand you appreciate a spirited yet respectful debate, but I could not agree with you more Mr. Cohen.

  8. An important element that you are missing in your analysis is the
    hospitaliztion rate which is much higher for this novel virus compared to influenza. If too many people get sick at once there simply will not be enough hospital beds especially ICU beds. Plus don’t forget many of these beds are already needed for people with other conditions. The high Italian death rate is a function of an elderly population combined with an overloaded system requiring rationing of care. China experienced this problem as well necessitating a lockdown.

    Also we don’t know the mortality rate as many cases probably go unreported due to mild symptoms. If we assume your 1% figure and 34 million get infected then you are looking at 340000 deaths with the deaths heavily concentrated in elderly where the death rate can exceed 15% in over 80 crowd.

    Not being alarmist just crunching numbers. If we spread the wave out then we can handle the patient inflow and be closer to a vaccine or treatment or maybe warm weather will squelch it.

    1. You have provided a very well reasoned and thoughtful argument, Dan. Thank you. I do not believe it is alarmist at all…

      …but even taking in your element of the analysis, I still think that the situation overall is out of control and far beyond a reasonable solution.

      1. I agree with you actually just pointing out that analysis of hospitalization rates is frequently overlooked. Like almost everything else in our society reaction to the outbreak is partisan which is unhelpful. Plus panic itself is contagious. Herd mentality and all that.

        I disagree with mass school closings. They are disruptive and more importantly potentially counterproductive. Are the kids going to sit at home or just wander around? They are not a risk group. They are silent vectors because they are least likely to be symptomatic. Strongest measures need to be aimed at seniors. Lock down nursing homes & assisted living and screen caretakers carefully. everyone else needs to do their part too to curtail spread. So i fall in between the it is just a bad flu crowd and the omg we are all going to die set.

  9. The elderly in nursing homes have the highest rate of death from WuFlu – they are sitting ducks regardless of hand hygiene. There are a million+ seniors in institutions & they are our vulnerable parents & grandparents. Bar access, screen, & do whatever else it takes to protect them I say.

    1. As they are indeed at the highest risk, Pam, should the elderly be isolated?

      That actually may be a potentially better solution than the March Madness which is currently spreading around the world; but it may also be considered a politically incorrect solution.

  10. “…but hey — what do I know?”

    Nothing on this subject. Absolutely nothing. Just parroting fox news nonsense.

  11. CDC issued medically-necessary-only nursing home visit directives a few days ago, Brian! And state governors & local homes are following their advice. What you may consider overreacting & overreaching may be life saving measures for many in our population not young, healthy, & mobile who need special protections.

    1. …so let me get this straight, Pam

      …placing the entire planet in mass hysteria and panic — to the point where people hoard supplies that those who truly need them cannot access them — by so-called “leaders” who have no idea what they are saying or doing is the solution to possibly save the lives of people who are not young, healthy, or mobile?

      I do not ascribe to that. Better — and possibly more effective — methods could have been used to accomplish the goal of saving the lives of people. I will even go so far as to say that this panic may potentially result in significantly more deaths because of selfish people than because of the virus itself.

      I stand by my statement that people worldwide are way overreacting and overreaching to this situation.

      1. Hindsight is 20/20 (& convenient) Brian, but given where the US is right now (& on our way to Italy’s outcome) an abundance of caution is critical especially for our elderly & compromised.

        1. My stance is not hindsight, Pam.

          Like you, I staunchly believe in protecting people who are elderly and compromised — but I also believe that the methods currently being implemented to do so comprise of a gross overreaction which can ironically potentially harm those same people more.

          An abundance of caution and a gross overreaction can be mutually exclusive…

          1. Nursing home patients aren’t traveling the globe, Brien, they got/get the virus from visitors/staff. The thinking by world leaders is seniors are safer if everyone (incl travaholics) can DT & calm down for a short period of time so our health (& other) resources aren’t overwhelmed.

            1. I agree that nursing home patients are not traveling around the world, Pam

              …so vigorously and rigorously restrict and test visitors and staff members of nursing homes prior to entering the facilities — some of which are only allowing visitors to see the elderly patients through windows from the outside.

              Would that not be safer, more effective, and far less costly than practically shutting down the rest of the planet?

  12. In regards to the current “14-day” quarantine, one is contagious before symptoms develop, then you self-quarantine for example, prior to and at the time, you still had to travel/move, after the period of quarantine, are you immune, while you stopped developing symptoms, are you still contagious, can you become reinfected and start the process over again, lots of unanswered questions. If the entire population of 7+ billion people were tested, how many of a percentage already have it and continue to go about their daily lives. The media and irrational behavior have effectively driven responses based on fear or an unknown and lack of common sense. This too shall run its course, and a new panic will arise to take it’s place, thanks to human behavior and the world at ones fingertips through their phone.

  13. Sorry, Brian. You have no idea what you’re talking about.

    If you look at actual data, you can see the outcome of different countries’ approaches to controlling the virus. Compare China’s eventual approach to that of Italy. The huge drop-off of infections in China started a couple days after social distancing was implemented. (You actually have to take into effect a lag from people who were infected, but not diagnosed, prior to the social distancing mandates, so the drop-off can only be calculated in hind-site.) Until then, China needed to build new hospitals in days just to accommodate the very sick patients. After mandated social distancing, these hospitals are now closed.

    Compare this data to that of Italy, which waited way too long to shut the country down. Italy should have learned from China’s data that the only way to effectively control the infection rate is by shutting down the country. The result of ignoring realty is that Italy’s healthcare system is now completely underwhelmed to the point that doctors are rationing care and deciding choosing which patients who will be put on the limited ventilators and which will not. Granted, Italy has an older population with citizens more likely to smoke than the US, so that does come into play here. Now that Italy has mandated strict social distancing, I would expect the infection rate to drop dramatically, as did China’s. (Again, this number can only be calculated in hind-site since people are infected many days prior to diagnosis.)

    The virus is already here in the US and spreading undetected in our communities. While you (and many readers here) may think that this virus is a big nothing burger, wait until you or someone you love needs hospitalization unrelated to the virus (car accident, cardiac issue) and all the hospital beds in your community are filled with covid-19 patients. Would you then still believe that the entire world is over-reacting?

  14. JJ… I do not recall anyone saying this virus, or any ailment, is a “big nothing burger” but the insane reaction nationwide is just not warranted. Shutting down an entire society based on a loose interpretation of ‘social distancing’ is irresponsible and has far reaching affects well beyond this virus. The bailout from the hysteria will be life altering!

    Furthermore, we really have no way of knowing if this virus has not been within our borders for months. I live in the same city as one of the busiest international airports in the world. Unlikely not one germ leaked out if this virus is so pesky as to warrant this overblown response. Millions may have been infected and recovered prior to the panic that what amounts to a cold in MOST people will doom our entire population. To arbitrarily decide that *now* that we are in grave danger and in need of isolation is silly.

    Just like with all dangers, at-risk persons should do all they can to protect themselves from germs that could seriously harm them. Be that Coronavirus, the flu, or even random allergens. Keep the elderly contained, maybe even quarantine with their caregivers. Allow the immune compromised to lead a more sequestered life for a bit. But there remains no sane explanation of why we would suddenly put an entire nation on hold!

  15. Two Emergency Physicians in Critical Condition in the US. One is in his 40s and the other in his 70s. (Google it.) There is a SERIOUS lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) in our hospitals. I’m not saying this is how the two ER docs were infected, but it’s going to get really ugly. Add to that hospital staff, bed and ventilator shortages.

    And I agree with GorillainRwanda, there are many people under 50 who are and will be seriously ill due to this virus.

    While most reasonable people understand how devastating “shutting down the planet” can be due to terrible financial repercussions, inconvenience and the like, sometimes you have to pick between two bad options.

    And it’s only just started here, folks.

    1. Really?! It seems more relevant than ever!

      They *have* shut down the entire planet – decimated the lives of over 17 million Americans who are out of work and struggling to survive while also unable to leave their homes, cancelled tens of thousands of so-called elective medical procedures like chemo and spinal fusions, allowed criminals to run free in order to protect ‘them’ from the disease (including the convicted killer of an 18 year old close family friend), and halted virtually all travel within and outside of our country while destroying multiple major industries…

      … all based on a potentially flawed model that may or may not be doing anything to abet this virus. And whatever minor good the ‘flattening the curve’ hysteria may be doing has harmed FAR more people than the 28K who have potentially died of Covid-19.

      ALL lives matter and ALL deaths matter – those from Covid-19 should not matter MORE than everyone else.

      And we will *NEVER* know if any of this helped at all!

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