OT: good advice regarding Coronavirus

OT: good advice regarding Coronavirus

Given the ongoing Coronavirus threat, I trust that Saul will welcome my OT post sharing relevant good advice about the coronavirus by James A. Robb, M.D., a notable eminent pathologist, that initially was sent by email on 2/26/2020 to only family and close friends. One of his close friends is a physician friend of mine, who forwarded Dr. Robb’s email to me. Soon after and unexpectedly, versions od Dr. Robb’s email appeared on social media that I’ll address later in this post. Now that it’s public, here’s the original email that I received:

Date: February 26, 2020
Subject: What I am doing for the upcoming COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

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!

James Robb, MD FCAP

FYI, Dr. Robb is a recognized expert in biospecimen science with over 50 years of experience in molecular pathology, virology, and genetics. He is board certified in anatomic pathology, clinical pathology, cytopathology, and dermatopathology. Dr. Robb is a consulting pathologist to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research (OBBR).

Versions of Dr. Robb’s email that appeared on social media were heavily memed and exaggerated, causing Snopes to investigate and find the following:
We reached out to Robb to ask if he was the author of this letter. Via email, he told us that he did indeed write it, but that it was never meant to be for anyone besides family and close friends, and that it was not intended to be an advertisement for any specific product:

It was my email to my family and close friends ONLY. Someone put it on their Facebook page. It was intended to be a monologue – not a dialogue. I do not use any social media and may have been too naive about what “sharing” means today.

I myself avoid social media accounts and participation, i.e., no Facebook, no tweets, nada.


On Monday, 3/2/2020, I voted at a Vote Center at my city hall in Los Angeles County, using the new ballot machines.

My Vote Center was open Feb 22 - Mar 2: 8am-5pm, and Mar 3: 7am-8pm. The new ballot machine was very easy and fast to use and vote, but uses a touch screen that could easily be contaminated by a person infected with Coronavirus, coughing and/or sneezing droplets on the screen. Yikes! I asked the Vote Center staff if they cleaned/wiped down the stations, and they responded only at the end of the day. I suggested that they advise voters to wash their hands after voting. I navigated through the voting process using my knuckle, and, thereafter, went to a nearby restroom and washed my hands. On my way home, I stopped at my local cell phone store to pay my bill and used my knuckle again to navigate through the kiosk touch screen. I need to remember to carry a packet of hand sanitizers.

For more info about Coronavirus (COVID-19), go to the following CDC site with the latest updates:



I read elsewhere one other thing: All the handwashing and alcohol wiping can dry the skin. Those little cracks can catch infectious material. At home, use some gentle hand lotion / moisturizer to keep the skin from cracking as much.

Thanks for the post.