empty shelves
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

One Illogically Irrational Aspect of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic is…

For a somber reminder of the myriad effects which the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — which is also known as COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV — pandemic has had on society within recent weeks, you only need to step into your local grocery store or supermarket.

One Illogically Irrational Aspect of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic is…

empty shelves
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Supplies of toilet paper are constantly exhausted.

empty shelves
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Paper towels and napkins are also elusive…

empty shelves
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

…as are facial tissues and other paper products.

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Because of the empty shelves of products which people are apparently hoarding, makeshift paper signs have printed on them: “Because of increased demand, customers are limited to one (1) of each item in the Paper Towel section. No rainchecks will be issued for these items when on sale. Thank you for understanding.”

liquid hand sanitizer
Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

Bottles of liquid hand sanitizer are also difficult to purchase, as demand far exceeds supply…

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

…as evidenced by the empty shelves on which they are normally stocked — but wait: what is all that on the shelves next to where the bottles of liquid hand sanitizer are typically displayed?

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

A closer look reveals plenty of bars of soap were available — as well as bottles of liquid soap and body wash.

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

A check at other grocery stores and supermarkets reveal a similar anomaly: rolls of toilet paper and bottles of liquid hand sanitizer are nowhere to be found — but plenty of soap in both bar and liquid form are available for sale.

The illogically irrational part of this observation is that soap and water are more effective in the fight against microbes than liquid hand sanitizer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible because handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on hands. But if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. The guidance for effective handwashing and use of hand sanitizer in community settings was developed based on data from a number of studies.”

Furthermore — according to this article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — “Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs” because “Soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing certain kinds of germs, like Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile. Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can inactivate many types of microbes very effectively when used correctly, people may not use a large enough volume of the sanitizers or may wipe it off before it has dried.”

The World Health Organization has similar recommendations of using soap and water as your first line of defense in terms of the best way of cleaning your hands to protect yourself against infection:

  • Clean your hands regularly.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water, and dry them thoroughly.
  • Use alcohol-based hand rub if you do not have immediate access to soap and water.

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 the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for using a face mask.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
    • Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of 2019 Novel Coronavirus 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 percent 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 at least one meter 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 2019 Novel Coronavirus — 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 2019 Novel Coronavirus. 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.

My Own Experience and Recommendations With Properly Washing Hands

Ever since I learned that the best way to avoid getting sick was to properly and thoroughly wash my hands, I began to do so — according to the recommendations of both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Heath Organization — and I have not contracted a flu or other communicable disease in years…

…not even the common cold, of which greater than 200 variations exist.

By the way, I rarely use liquid hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, as they are not nearly as effective as good old soap and water with which to wash hands.

I have written numerous articles over the years espousing the virtues and benefits of properly and thoroughly washing your hands:


Based on the information which has been available for years as according to the recommendations of both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Heath Organization, I find why in the world would people rather hoard supplies of liquid hand sanitizer than good old-fashioned soap as illogical — but perhaps I am missing something here as part of the perspective of this perceived irrationality…

…and antibacterial soap has not been proven to be any more effective than regular soap if hands are washed properly and thoroughly.

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 — as well as attempt to maintain a reasoned and sensible ongoing discussion towards how to resolve this pandemic.

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

All photographs ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

  1. Guess it depends on the state your in, maybe the soap Trent has not kicked in yet. In Hawaii liquid hand soaps have been sold out for weeks and now lucky to find bar soap.

    1. I am sorry to read that, Sam.

      I hope that you have better access to soap as soon as possible.

      Interestingly, eggs were difficult to find here in the state of Georgia a couple of weeks ago; but lately, they have been plentiful while the supply of meat is still decimated…?!?

  2. That is quite sad, Sam… I hope you were able to stock at least what you need for basics before your area ran low on soap. The hoarding is insane! Our paper products, frozen pizza, and (oddly) good salted butter supplies are decimated.

    Interestingly, smaller local restaurants are now selling their meat stock to residents who have been unable to find what they need in the stores. Win-win as the ‘shelter in place’ orders have effectively shut down most area restaurants, even those who are diligently offering take-out meals while struggling to keep themselves afloat until this situation resolves itself.

  3. Dear Brian,

    What are you moisturizing tips after OCD’ing hand washing and scrubbing?

    With all the “shutter” in place hysteria, Vitamin D levels are likely decreasing. I’m waiting on the panic buying of vitamins and minerals.

    Here in California, pot shops and liquor stores are open as they are considered essential.

    Brave New World

    1. My first tip is to not be obsessive-compulsive with washing hands, Chris@Oak


      …but to treat your hands as contaminated once they touch a foreign object so you do not touch your face or ears or food. As long as you do that, you do not need to immediately wash them.

      As for moisturizing hands, my hands are rarely dry and then only in the winter, so I do not moisturize them often. I find that common hand cream from a hotel or resort property works just fine for me; but on the rare occasion on which I need something better, Cetaphil works well for me.

  4. Your photos are of bath soaps. Are you suggesting people start using dove body soaps to wash their hands? There are many instances where hand sanitizer is a more convenient and expedient option for cleaning your hands. I dont exactly have a sink in my car to wash my hands… Nor can i go to the bathroom every 5 mins at work.

    1. I am saying that for years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization both strongly recommend washing using soap — neither specifies a particular type of soap — with water as one of the best defenses against contracting an illness caused by microbes such as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, Tony; and statements from both indicate that liquid hand sanitizer may be used only if soap and water is not immediately available.

      You also do not need to wash your hands “every 5 mins at work”, as you stated in your comment. Wash your hands thoroughly at regular intervals; and do not touch your face or ears once you believe that your hands are contaminated.

      I am further saying that I rarely use liquid hand sanitizer; and I have not been ill as the result of a infectious disease for years — not even the flu or the common cold.

      If I am going to fight against a disease and I had to choose between soap and liquid hand sanitizer, I would choose the former any day — and I certainly would prioritize soap over toilet paper…

      …assuming that I did not have a more pressing need for toilet paper at that moment…

  5. I traveled to several regions around the country as things were ramping up, and have talked with family in various states since the ‘lock downs’ started. Your photos reflect what I saw, and what they still report, with distinct regional differences. One area had bread and anything canned sold out, but fresh produce was plentiful, another dairy was already being rationed to 1ea per customer, another meats and eggs, and yet another baking staples were the desirable items. The only common thread was paper and sanitary products were sold out virtually everywhere.

    Saw an ark meme that sums up this overbuying situation rather succinctly, albeit with a mildly religious undertone, “Even Noah, when preparing for a 40-day flood, only got two of each.”

    I wish we would have some clear leadership (I don’t mean political, events like this can happen while either party holds the Oval), as in clear information and guidance on what we should be planning/preparing for, to bring people back to a simple reality that this is not the zombie apocalypse. Even Sunday’s morning ‘Washington’ talk shows and daily briefing, still had no unified message, but multiple conflicting messages from folks supposedly working the same problem for the same team. 🙁

    At least they are consistent about telling us to wash our hands, often. And nice to see the toilet paper makers are now running “there is plenty of TP, we are still making it during this pandemic, you won’t run out” commercials to help flatten that artificial demand curve. 🙂

    1. I completely agree with you, Bob.

      I have been espousing the benefits of properly washing hands for years — to the point of being ridiculed, even though I have not contracted a flu or a cold in years — but some people choose not to listen; and no leader of any type might have been able to convince them otherwise.

      For me, I prefer to go to the sources for my information and not depend on those so-called “leaders”, as I believe that we need to take care of ourselves and not depend on the government to take care of us in general.

      I completely agree with your statement that we need “to bring people back to a simple reality that this is not the zombie apocalypse.”

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