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It’s going to get a lot worse than you ever imagined. Here’s a checklist to stay healthy — the best I’ve found

My personal physician, Dr. Jerry Clements of Village Family Practice in New York City forwarded this email to me from Dr. James Robb last night:

Dear Colleagues,

As some of you may recall, when I was a professor of pathology at the University of California San Diego, I was one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses (the 1970s). I was the first to demonstrate the number of genes the virus contained. Since then, I have kept up with the coronavirus field and its multiple clinical transfers into the human population (e.g., SARS, MERS), from different animal sources.

The current projections for its expansion in the US are only probable, due to continued insufficient worldwide data, but it is most likely to be widespread in the US by mid to late March and April.

Here is what I have done and the precautions that I take and will take. These are the same precautions I currently use during our influenza seasons, except for the mask and gloves.:

1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.

2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.

3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip – do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.

4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.

5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.

6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands.

7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!

What I have stocked in preparation for the pandemic spread to the US:

1) Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves for use when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas.

Note: This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average – everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs) The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth.

2) Stock up now with disposable surgical masks and use them to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you – it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth – it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.

3) Stock up now with hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves (get the appropriate sizes for your family). The hand sanitizers must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.

4) Stock up now with zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eeze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands available.

I, as many others do, hope that this pandemic will be reasonably contained, BUT I personally do not think it will be. Humans have never seen this snake-associated virus before and have no internal defense against it. Tremendous worldwide efforts are being made to understand the molecular and clinical virology of this virus. Unbelievable molecular knowledge about the genomics, structure, and virulence of this virus has already been achieved.

BUT, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available.

I hope these personal thoughts will be helpful during this potentially catastrophic pandemic. You are welcome to share this email. Good luck to all of us! Jim

James Robb, MD

I am visiting Dr. Clements this morning for a flu booster shot.  I asked him last week about the flu and the coronavirus. Here’s his reply:


We as physicians do not have a quick office based genetic testing kit to confirm Corona virus infections.  The initial one was found to be inaccurate and flawed.  Suspected cases need to be sent to the CDC for testing.  The CDC is working very hard right now to produce a valid, rapid test.  I will let you know when a quick test becomes available.  We will need an accurate test like this to get our hands and minds around this potential pandemic.

Unfortunately the global population has not been exposed to the Corona virus before, so an individual will be less likely to have some acquired resistance.  Unlike the flu virus, which has had strains circulating for 100+ years, many of us have protective acquired immunity that helps us reduce the lethality of many strains of flu.

However,  everyone over 6 months of age should still get the flu vaccine yearly and even a second booster when there is a prolonged flu season.  We are now 13 weeks into the flu epidemic and it has been quite bad with no lessening as of yet.  This is the worst flu season I have seen in 15 years and I have been practicing medicine for 45 years now.

I spend much of this weekend studying Covid-19, as they’re now calling it. Here are some words from the media:

From The Washington Post:

The death toll is higher than the previous outbreaks of both SARS and MERS combined. … We’re receiving news about this epidemic at a speed that rivals the spread of the actual virus. Everyone from the World Health Organization to patients in quarantine is live-streaming. As Wan succinctly put it, this is the first modern-era outbreak since the world became a truly hyper-connected, online place.

“When SARS hit in 2002-2003, it was pretty scary, with a fatality rate of about 10 percent and no drugs shown to be effective against it. But it was also brought under control in a matter of months, and for the most part stamped out by international cooperation and strict, old-school public health measures like isolation, quarantine and contact tracing. The problem is that the current coronavirus has much more mild symptoms than SARS, meaning it’s harder to catch and isolate.”

From this morning’s New York Times:

+ Second Death From Coronavirus Is Reported in the U.S.

     Officials see growing indications that the virus has been spreading undetected in the Seattle suburbs for weeks.

+ Coronavirus in N.Y.: Manhattan Woman Is First Confirmed Case in State

    A woman in her 30s who had traveled in Iran contracted the virus and is now isolated at home.

What do investors do now?

Do not underestimate the likely adverse economic affects.

Here’s the last year of Nasdaq. The latest fall is more than a blip.

Stock markets will fall further (though perhaps not today). Items:

+ There were seven people on a Delta flight from Portland to Tokyo last week.  Seven people. (They were all bumped to first class.)

+ Many large companies — including Microsoft, News Corp, JPMorgan, Amazon and LG — have banned nonessential travel. Many large companies have not announced their bans publicly.

+ Dozens of huge conferences have been cancelled, hurting hotels, airlines, catering companies, etc.

+ People are cancelling their planned trips by the droves. Why sit in an aluminium tube and be exposed to who knows what?

+ Airlines, like Lufthansa, and airports,like Frankfurt in Germany are furloughing workers. Don’t believe me? Watch Friday’s Rachel Maddow show. She has some gruesome pictures of Frankfurt Airport, and even more gruesome statistics. I watched her show twice. Click here.

So what do you and I do now?

Goldman Sachs has three forecasts Click here. The worst is S&P 500 earnings for 2020 will  fall by 13% to $143. Goldman forecasts the markets to fall further — even after last week’s collapse.

I started looking at areas of the economy most like to suffer, including cruise lines and airlines. Last week they fell. I believe they could fall further. Here’s the three leading cruise lines over the last year:

The airlines look just as awful.

If you short them, be aware that your online broker could charge you 5% to 9.3% a year interest — and maybe more if the stock you’re shorting is hard to borrow.

However, we may be too late shorting them.

From Business Insider comes this story:

What might end up being the worst week for stocks in over a decade hurt a little less for some asset managers.

BlackRock, Citadel, D1 Capital, and Adelphi Capital were all able to make millions on short positions of airlines, cruise companies, movie theaters, and malls – companies that were directly impacted by the public health crisis created by the quickly spreading coronavirus.

According to data from German tracker Breakout Point, BlackRock was the only holder of a short position greater 0.5% of the company’s issued share capital – which European regulations require to be disclosed – of Carnival cruises. Carnival owns the Princess cruise line, which made headlines for the infected passengers in Japan.

The short taken out by Larry Fink’s manager tallied up gains of roughly $75 million for the world’s largest asset manager, according to Breakout Point. BlackRock declined to comment.

Ken Griffin’s Citadel meanwhile loaded up on short positions on European airlines – the biggest on Lufthansa, which has fallen by roughly a fifth since last week. Other short positions from Citadel included Air France, EasyJet, Wizz Air, and SAS. Just the shorts on Lufthansa and Air France, Breakout Point estimates, generated more than $77 million in gains for Citadel.

Citadel has pared back its shorts on Wizz Air and SAS and collected profits there, filings show.

The economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak is expected to eventually impact nearly every industry and developed market, but some sectors have shown the effects quicker than others. Shopping and trips to the movies, for example, are hurt when people want to limit exposure to others.

Dan Sundheim’s D1 Capital placed a large short position earlier in February against EPR Properties, which owns the real estate of hundreds of movie theaters, golf courses, ski resorts, and other “experiential” venues, as well as London-based Cineworld, which has seen its stock price fall by roughly a third since the start of the year. This week, the firm has cut down on its Cineworld short to bring in profits, but still maintains a bet against the company.

Adelphi Capital meanwhile has increased it short positions this month against three different European real-estate companies – two Dutch companies, Wereldhave NV and Eurocommercial Properties NV, and Hamburg-based Deutsche EuroShop AG – that run shopping malls. Eurocommercial Properties has a significant presence in Italy, where coronavirus has spread rapidly in recent days.

D1, Citadel, and Adelphi did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

A pleasant Sunday morning in New York City

I woke up on Sunday morning thinking I should sell every stock I own and go 100% to cash.

Am I panicking? Yes. The world is also.

Last night we tried to buy survival food — in case we need to spend a long time in our home — forced quarantine or self-quarantined.

Good luck finding this stuff at your local supermarket:

Good luck especially finding canned beans.

Meantime, wash your hands. Don’t shake hands. Don’t touch your face.

Send this blog to your family and friends. Tell them to sign up for free updates.

This is the only “funny” I could find. Not a threat we’re worrying about right now:

Harry Newton



  • Mike Nash

    I’ve heard rumors that Trump unleashed coronavirus on the nation in hopes of taking out as many Democrats and members of the media as possible. I don’t know if it’s true but if so this is just about the worst thing ever.

  • Mike Nash

    I have scheduled business in Wuhan City, China next week.

    • Lucky

      we visited Wuhan City about 20 years ago…no symptoms yet!

      • Mike Nash

        I understand the incubation period for coronavirus is 21 years.

  • Bruce Miller

    I wonder if foot operated door openers will start to show up in the
    public restrooms. May be a good time to invest in them or start a
    business installing. I keep hand wipes in the car to use after going
    shopping and the like. Best thing to do is stay away from the community
    as much as possible. Hopefully they will get a vaccine soon.
    (did image of door foot opener work?)

  • Sans souci

    So Dr. James Robb decided that CVD-19 is a “snake-associated virus” before the rest of the medical world can figure out its origin? This totally demolished his credibility with me.

  • Viswanatha Rao

    What about international travel risks? planning to go to Costa Rica with family in two weeks

    • gerryb

      I think you should go, but use some of the common sense habits–frequent hand washing, don’t touch face, etc.–that Harry wrote about above.