Coronavirus: We’ve Panicked, Now What?

I’m interrupting the originally planned blog article to add this new section on what we need to do, right now:

It’s Time to Rally the Troops

Here’s the deal. 

Coronavirus is going to start impacting life here very shortly.

While I have faith in our local representatives and their current plans, I feel like the warnings from countries with better health systems than our country is, “We should have been more aggressive sooner.”

This virus spreads in the asymptomatic, for 5-11 days, it infects a number of people from a single source, we’re not testing frequently enough, and our systems can’t handle the added burden if many get sick.

I think that if you need to hear from someone that it’s time to act, I’m going to be that person. It’s still not time to panic, but it’s time to get serious.

It’s time to self-quarantine. Minimize public exposure. Cancel your travel and event plans. We’ll be holding our kids home from school, even if no cancellation is officially made.

We do this not because this is close and an imminent threat RIGHT NOW, but because we don’t want it to get close. We don’t want it to be a threat. We need to protect the high risk in our community AND the hospitals, doctors, nurses, and staff that would have to care for our sickest.

Now, here’s my ask: we need you to lead and we need you to donate

If schools get canceled, kids won’t eat. If public events are canceled, seniors won’t eat. In each of your communities, you probably have an organization that can help supply meals to the public.

In Woodstock and Onteora, we have The Table. I need donations to ensure the kids and seniors have meals. Emily, the founder, will ramp up supply to meet the demand. I’m donating money plus offering our delivery vehicle if needed.

If you’re not a Woodstocker, The Table would love your donation, but I’d rather you find your organization in your community and give money to them. 

If you have any roots in the community, $10 will prep 5 meals. We don’t need big numbers, but big numbers will ensure no one is left out. 

We have a wide, national reach these days here at Woodstock Vitamins, so we could really change the outcome of this thing if each of you reading this takes leadership in your community. 

It’s time to get serious and stay home. Time to donate a few bucks to your local food pantry or kitchen.

Back to our regularly scheduled blog/rant 🙂

It’s Time We Talked

Now that we have some space to breathe and talk calmly about coronavirus, I think we need to. My plan is to reiterate a few things covered in my initial Coronavirus Myth-Busting blog and our recent podcast covering common-sense Coronavirus prevention, but I’d like to move our conversation along with the national conversation as it’s evolving. Unfortunately, the rhetoric I’m hearing isn’t where our heads should be, nor is my calming advice being received as it should.

Let’s regroup and figure out a path forward that respects this pandemic for what it should be.

No Supplement Will Help You

The first round of dangerous talk and obscene panic-stricken behavior is dying down. I’ve got to be honest, I’m worried about us. Not because of the harm an unchecked coronavirus pandemic could cause, but because of how easily so many people buy into BS and overreact.

(If we’re not friends on Facebook, we should be. I’ve posted some of this over there, so forgive me if I’m recycling jokes)

Why did everyone buy all the toilet paper? You need 14 days of extra supplies in the event of quarantine. Fourteen days EXTRA, meaning on top of your current supply. In my house, we have like 36 rolls of toilet paper at any given time. There’s a lot of butts (6 total) in my house, but that still will last us 2 weeks or more. Why does a family of two need to buy multiple cases of toilet paper? If you use so much TP, perhaps you should check out Probiotic Complete.

I heard an excellent joke: “People need all that toilet paper because now anytime someone sneezes 20 people sh*t themselves.”

In a serious tone, I say, I spent way too much time debunking the zinc lozenge and Vitamin C myths. I’ve been asked about those plus NAC, milk thistle, homeopathy, colloidal silver, elderberry, and more. If I had a nickel on how many times I’ve talked about how hand sanitizer is a bad idea and gives people a false sense of security… I’d have like $4.05 probably.

Here’s what we know definitively: no supplement will improve your chances with coronavirus. Period. End of sentence.

Here’s your new workflow when you hear a claim about a supplement and coronavirus: 

  1. Reread the bold sentence above
  2. If the question persists, email me and ask if it’s valid. I’ll set the myth straight. 
  3. If you need further proof, google the thing + “myth.” For example, “zinc lozenge coronavirus myth.” The first sites that show for “coronavirus + BS supplement” are established, trustworthy sites telling you why these things won’t help.

Even Snopes and Politifact weighed in, showing that the entire zinc thing was an offhand comment by a dude who worked on coronavirus. Not a reason to gobble down my entire supply of cold meds that I stinkin’ need because I have a sore throat from a cold!

That should be enough for people to stop the insanity and put the zinc down. Unless it’s for a cold. Zinc is excellent for a cold, that’s it. Instead, people are STILL coming in to our store and buying 5-12 at a time. Please don’t actually use it to prevent coronavirus, as it will fry your taste buds.

In fact, there’s no real treatment of this at all. No meds, no antivirals, no Tamiflu. It has a high infectivity rate, it is spread asymptomatically, symptoms appear in 5-11 days, and we don’t have enough tests to see who’s got it before they get sick. This thing is a real problem.

My Two Descriptors of Coronavirus Busy-ness

There are two short phrases that come to mind regarding the American condition that’s exaggerated by coronavirus:

“False sense of security” and “Illusion of control”

Hoarding baby wipes and painting masks while taking high dose ascorbic acid won’t help anyone except us retailers who sell these things.

Your wellness guidance for today is to look at this pattern shared by so many of us and just observe the feelings. The anxiety from an unknown compels us to take some action because acting means we’re doing something. This makes us feel safe.

In reality, nothing’s changed.

Instead, breathe. We can’t control much of anything. We can plan, yes, and we can be curious about how it unfolds.

It’s clear that the best we can do is the basics: wash your hands, minimize exposure to public places, and in general, stop being gross.

In the end, the consumerist monster knows you’ll give in to the conditioning. It is manipulating you to part with your money, attention, and energy. Instead, breathe.

“It’s Just a Flu” is a Dangerous Sentiment

I am not an alarmist. I’m very pragmatic. I don’t believe that non-high risk people are going to have a tough time with coronavirus, based on what I’ve been told by much smarter people. That being said, there’s still A LOT that’s going to happen with coronavirus, and I believe it will be bad.

As Jo Carrena, PharmD and infectious disease specialist stated on our Coronavirus podcast, we don’t know how big the denominator is. We don’t know how many people have it and don’t have severe symptoms. We only really know about the sickest. When this is all over, we can then make better assessments of how “bad” or benign this is.

Until then, the assumption is that it will be bad, especially for high-risk patients

It becomes bad for the rest of us as our system gets stressed. In other countries, their medical systems are overwhelmed.

Let’s pretend for a second that of the hundreds of thousands of residents in our county, 2000 of them get intensely ill from coronavirus. How will our dozen or so hospitals fare with this? What if 2000 people in just Kingston and surrounding towns alone get sick with this? How many ICU beds do you think we have? How many ventilators?

Multiply this by every county in this country.

The alarmist in me is now raising red flags around this. While YOU may not experience a problem with coronavirus, if it does hit our system and our community members will have a BIG problem with coronavirus.

By reducing this down to “it’s just a flu,” we are not respecting how bad this can be. 

By stocking up on hand sanitizer, toilet paper, Vitamin C, and masks, members of our community and healthcare professionals lose access to vital supplies.

By wasting our time grumbling and worrying, members of our community are put at higher and higher risk due to government inaction.

We should be ramping up our testing ability, allocating resources to states and counties to perform testing, and helping people be able to afford to stay home.

Are you looking to do something to help yourself feel more prepared for this? Do you want something more productive to do than hand your cash over for the illusion of control and a false sense of security? I’ve got just the solution…

Here’s a good use of your time and energy. Make one phone call to each of your representatives. It’s like 6 to 10 five minute phone calls in total. State reps and national too. Ask them one question, “How is the government helping our communities prepare for this pandemic?” Demand they take action now.

Don’t know who to call? I’ll make it easy! Enter your address here and literally all of them will be listed:

I bet you won’t. Prove me wrong.

“But Neal Said I’ll Probably Be Fine”

Our current threat level is “Don’t sneeze directly into other people’s mouth.” There’s no reason to panic right now.

Many people who are scrambling and looking to me for advice, or those raiding the shelves of Cosco, are not high risk. These people need to be reassured and redirected.

I’ve done that by telling people that they will probably be fine. (My bad!) 

This is being misconstrued and added to the other dangerous rhetoric, equalling out to, “This isn’t a big deal.” That’s definitely not what I’m saying.

What I’m trying to say is this is not a “zombie apocalypse is here so eat your neighbor”-level emergency so you need to calm down and not buy into the BS. It’s a “we need to care for our most at-risk members of the community”-level threat. 

We care for the high risk by washing our hands, limiting physical contact, reducing exposure to the masses, and all of the common sense things adults should be doing anyway.

What’s in Store for Our Coronavirus Future?

What can we learn from this all? Well, on a light note, I’ve learned our meme game can’t be any stronger. Share your favorite meme back with me via email or on my Facebook page.

First, you can identify the retailers and charlatans that are in it for the money. Think back on the past couple weeks. Which retailers, manufacturers, and brands all had their “solutions” for coronavirus that slid in products and regimens that they believe will help coronavirus? What brands set up a veritable “coronavirus section” in their store so all your unnecessary needs were in a single spot?

I can list no fewer than 10 manufacturers that sent out emails to me, along with about a dozen emails my customers have received from mailing lists of charlatans they belong to.

My advice? Avoid those companies. They’re the vultures. 

Second, I’m hoping this will encourage more people to take both vaccination and universal precautions more seriously. By just washing our hands regularly, we can stop the spread of many diseases that kill lots of people each year. More importantly, if people started wearing masks when they had upper respiratory infections and not feel shamed by it, that would be just swell. This macho nonsense needs to go.

Third, get active in your community. Shut down harmful claims. Support the sickest among you. Donate to your local food pantry. Keep your kids home from school. Cancel your party plans.

Our future is dark if we can be moved so easily to buy poor quality products with no evidence… if we can get stirred into a frenzy out of fear. I’m pretty sure I could have said that this is the best mask to prevent coronavirus:

I’d wager some people would buy it. Like I said at the onset, I’m worried for us.

Our future is bright if we think of others first. We’re strongest if we can not let the fear of a future we can’t control dictate our actions. We must take the threat of coronavirus seriously.

Just trying to keep it real…

Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth

Dr. Neal Smoller, Holistic Pharmacist

About Neal Smoller

Dr. Neal Smoller, PharmD, is a licensed pharmacist: and owner of Village Apothecary, an independent pharmacy in the most famous small town in America—Woodstock, NY. He’s also the host of the popular wellness podcast, The Big Mouth Pharmacist.”


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