Novel coronavirus: credible resources and incredible people

Table of Contents

Novel coronavirus: credible resources and incredible people

Originally published March 17, 2020; updated with more awesomeness April 24th and May 28th.

Novel coronavirus with microscopic image

So. Much. Misinformation. About. The. Novel. Coronavirus.

If you’ve seen conflicting info, there are two reasons for it:

  1. This is a novel virus introducing itself to humans for the first time just a few months ago, so we’re gathering new info about it every day. The science is progressing very, very quickly, but we still don’t know everything yet. We DO know the most important thing: how to stop spreading it. This is by frequent proper handwashing and staying physically distant from people you don’t live with. Also, new research is showing the benefits of masks in close quarters where staying 2m/6′ away from people is literally impossible (e.g. public transit). See the “What we can all do to protect our health” section below for more info.
  2. People are getting tired of staying home and are legit worried about the economic and other longer-term impacts. This can make them susceptible to believing and sharing information to return to normal ASAP. Some are recommending actions that are not based on the most recent, best science (e.g., like opening up stores and workplaces). Maybe they’re well-meaning, maybe they know *just enough* to be dangerous, and maybe they’re one of the few who simply make sh!t up. Either way, all of the sources listed below are from credible experts. (And some of it *will* change as new research answers more and more questions and we keep learning more.)

Here’s an example: Some rando on Twitter tried to convince me that I need a full hazmat suit and goggles just to go outside. Yes, outside where the air is FRESH and not coughed on! She was either convinced that this is true, or was trying to befriend influence me with a sophisticated disinformation campaign because Bot Sentinel said she wasn’t a bot.

I found it interesting that she specifically reached out to reply to me with her very-concerned-for-my-health sounding tweet after I shared that simple soap and water inactivates the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the one that causes COVID-19)—which it does (evidence for this is shared below).

So I asked her who is recommending hazmat suits?

Her response was a three paragraph article that the virus *may* be aerosol.

Clearly no experts are recommending hazmat suits and goggles. Especially not outside.

In a nutshell:

This post is a curation of credible information about the novel coronavirus from trusted health authorities. Their websites are being updated regularly as new information emerges, so keep your eyes on them. Things are changing quickly as testing is ramping up and many places are reopening. Follow the *actual* public health experts.

I am one of those people who is getting a bit tired of staying home. I 100 percent will continue to do so, and handwash, and physically distance, etc. But, I get it. I want to go out for dinner at a cosy little restaurant close by. I want to visit my family and friends. I want to head out to concerts and enjoy crowded areas this summer, like High Park, Harbourfront, Wonderland, and The Ex here in Toronto. But, I know this is a marathon not a sprint. And I know that what we do today will directly impact how my family, community, province, country, and the world will fare in the upcoming weeks and months. I know there will be a light at the end of this tunnel and how bright it shines will depend on all of our day-to-day actions.

Here’s my question to you: Considering what we know right now about:

  • How contagious this is (very)
  • That there are many people who have no symptoms and spread it (it’s hard to track and prevent when some people who are infected feel fine)
  • How many people it harms (mainly older adults and those with other conditions, but no one is truly safe—not kids, not healthy adults—no one is guaranteed to have no symptoms or be free of serious health effects)
  • There is no good treatment (hydroxychloroquine hasn’t panned out) and we may be 1-2 years out before a safe, effective, universally available vaccine is ready
  • How well testing, tracing, and isolating infected people is working in your area

What would look like a win to you? Please add this to the comments below!

To boost the morale a bit, I also want to share some incredible things people are doing in light of this pandemic. People are amazing and creative and thoroughly impress me. The front-line people, the helpers, the examples of how to help others, and the ideas on how to get through maintaining physical distance from others.

(This post is looong. Feel free to read it all or scroll up to the Table of Contents and click on the section you’re particularly interested in.)

Let’s dive in.

What we can all do to protect our health

Some people are hoarding toilet paper, while others are partying in huge groups.

If there is just one takeaway from this post, heed what your local (regional/provincial/state) or country public health experts are saying. Different regions have different needs, demographics, supply chains, and medical capacities. And if your political or media spokespeople are saying something opposite from your public health experts, listen to the experts.

In other words, If you’re not being told to stay home, wash your hands thoroughly and often, stop touching your face, cough/sneeze into your elbow, avoid physical contact (handshakes), etc. get your info here:

*The most important things to do*

Wash your hands thoroughly and often

Stop touching your face

Cover coughs and sneezes (with your elbow or a tissue)

Clean frequently touched areas

  • Like doorknobs, cupboard handles, light switches, toilet flush handles, etc.

Avoid physical contact (“physical/social distancing”)

  • The WHO’s global recommendations are to stay AT LEAST 1m (3′) away from anyone who coughs or sneezes. Some countries have doubled this to stay away from everyone (coughing or not) by 2m (6′). These are what’s called “physical” or “social” distancing.
  • Most countries also strongly recommend physical/social distancing by avoiding crowds and not leaving your house unless you absolutely have to. In Canada, we’ve been asked to do this since about March 14th (if you have a reference of when this became official, please add it to the comments below).

If you’re advised to self-monitor or isolate, do it

Stay home if you’re sick

  • In fact, many countries are asking (or forcing) everyone to stay home, sick or not.
  • Please do this.
  • Just do it.
  • Do it.
  • Thank you.

Simple illustrated easy-to-read resources to share far and wide

What we know so far about the novel coronavirus

Why do the info and recos keep changing?

Signs and symptoms versus the cold, flu, and allergies

Acetaminophen/Paracetamol vs Ibuprofen

“Scientists and doctors around the world are banding together in exceptional ways, sharing their data, opining, interpreting and modelling. The speed of knowledge acquisition is also unusual: after learning of this new disease in last December, scientists published the virus’ genetic code in early January of this year. As information races in, journalists and social media influencers will be quick to share the data but don’t be surprised if it changes rapidly. Science is like a dog on a leash, sniffing left, sniffing right, but eventually moving in one clear direction. With COVID-19, that dog is on rollerblades. Hang on to something. It’s going to be quite a ride.”

“Flatten the curve” means what, exactly?

  • You’ve heard we need to “flatten the curve”—it means we keep from spreading it too far too fast so our hospitals and medical facilities don’t all get overwhelmed at once. From a personal perspective, it means doing all the things mentioned above (wash hands thoroughly and often, stop touching your face, cover coughs and sneezes with a sleeve or tissue, clean frequently touched areas, avoid physical contact, self-isolate or quarantine when asked to, and stay home if you’re sick).

How long do coronaviruses last on surfaces?

  • A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine as of March 17, 2020, says that the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the current novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19) has similar surface stability to the SARS-CoV-1 virus (the virus that causes SARS). It’s viable on:
    • copper, up to 4 hours
    • cardboard, up to 24 hours
    • stainless steel, about 48-72 hours
    • plastic, about 72 hours

The cool science behind the tests for the novel coronavirus

There are two kinds of tests. The first one tests for the presence of the viral genome. That means they’re looking for the virus itself. The second kind of test is to see whether your immune system has already encountered the SARS-CoV-2 virus or not. Has it produced antibodies to fight it off better next time?


Getting individual testing kits, vaccines, and treatments

Because this is a brand-spanking-new virus, there are NO scientifically-validated home testing kits, vaccines, nor treatments. Many scientists and companies around the world are working very, very hard to make these happen. There are dozens of clinical trials registered to start testing these in Canada alone. Right now, there is no concrete timeline when these will be available, but they may come around fast.

Beware of unauthorized or fake testing kits, masks, etc. being smuggled or advertised. Many are being seized by authorities. I’ve seen people hawking “remedies” and “cures.” The best thing we can do now is to not get it, nor spread it (stay home, wash your hands, if you need to go out then use social/physical distancing, etc.).

One of the hardest things to accept is the lack of concrete answers. I get it! I want them, too. I don’t want to be cooped up and have my kids miss school for months. I don’t want to worry about my parents and in-laws getting this (they’re in the higher-risk category). I want this to go away.

Scientists are learning more and more about the novel coronavirus every day. There are daily updates on many credible websites, like the WHO. As studies are conducted, reviewed, and published we will learn more. Every day we’re learning more. When any vaccines or treatments are shown to be both safe and effective, they will likely be fast-tracked through your government’s regulatory system.

Don’t trust randos on the internet.

Let’s do our part to stop the spread with handwashing, not touching our faces, covering coughs and sneezes with sleeves or tissues, cleaning surfaces, avoiding physical contact as much as possible, and staying home if we’re sick (or, just staying home, period).

We can do this together!

Medications and treatments for COVID-19

A lot of medicines and treatments are being tested now. As the research results come in we’ll learn more, however as of April 13, there really isn’t anything that’s shown to be safe and effective (and I’m sure you know better than to try using strong UV light or disinfectant inside or full-strength on your body 🤦‍♀️).

As of March 24, the Journal of the American Medical Association says, “Although many drugs have in vitro activity against different coronaviruses, no clinical evidence currently supports the efficacy and safety of any drug against any coronavirus in humans, including SARS-CoV-2.” Dr. Kalil goes on to say, “the administration of any unproven drug as a ‘last resort’ wrongly assumes that benefit will be more likely than harm.”

What about supplements, foods, and a healthy lifestyle?

Prevention is always the best medicine, so keeping your hands clean, staying home, etc. will have the most power to protect you from the novel coronavirus.

Having said that, there is a small amount of evidence that certain supplements may help to reduce the risk of respiratory infections like the common cold or flu (not on the novel coronavirus). These are Vitamins C and D and zinc lozenges. There is also at least one study looking into the possibility that IV vitamin C may help those who become infected.

Don’t be fooled that these can prevent or treat a coronavirus infection—they can’t. Healthy lifestyle habits are associated with better immune function. Get enough quality sleep. Eat more healthy and nutritious foods. Do physical activity. But, don’t stop washing your hands and staying physically distant from others.

For more details about supplements and lifestyle interventions, see Examine’s review of supplements for coronavirus.

And, Health Canada issued a warning about health products that make false or misleading claims to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19.

How do we “reopen” society?

There are a lot of places reopening now. If we want to prevent spreading of the virus, there are a few things we need to get right. One of these is to be able to find and isolate people who have the virus (instead of having everyone stay home as much as possible). This will need very rigorous testing, tracing all of the people who they were in contact with (contact tracing), and mandatory isolation for the person with the infection and all of their recent contacts.

Another thing is to understand how many people may be immune to the virus already. This would mean testing for antibodies in the immune system to know that you’ve been exposed. And knowing for how long after exposure you’ll be immune to the virus. Once we are exposed, do we have lifelong immunity? There are still a few answers we need before we can make informed decisions (see the thread):

How the pandemic is affecting food, agriculture, groceries, and cooking

pandemic food - muffins, paper bag, plate

Where’d this virus even come from?

Viruses are unpredictable

  • Here’s an infographic on the history of pandemics. Humans have consistently been exposed to pandemics throughout history. We’ve survived several over the centuries (this novel coronavirus is not a new phenomenon, just a new strain of an ever-evolving virus). Note that the number for the novel coronavirus will continue to increase until it’s over.

Viruses are always one step ahead of us

They’re not smart! They just replicate really, really fast and make mistakes while they’re at it. Those random “mistakes” can sometimes result in a whole new infectious disease. Kinda like how random mistakes can cause several cancers. Random mistakes happen. Naturally.

How a virus invades your body

How your immune system works

Your immune system doesn’t stop you from getting infected (that’s what all the staying home, hand washing, etc. does). Instead, it helps your body to fight viruses and bacteria after they get into your body.


What do we know about the novel coronavirus and autoimmunity or immunodeficiency?

Ideally, a healthy immune system works to fight disease-promoting invaders that get into your body while leaving your own cells alone. Autoimmunity is when your immune system works a bit too hard and starts attacking not just invading infections, but your own cells. Immunodeficiency is the opposite; when the immune system isn’t attacking invading infections enough.

As of now, the prevailing wisdom is to prevent COVID-19 with clean hands, staying home, etc.

Examples of how this novel coronavirus pandemic is bringing out the best in people

Moved to:

Shoutout to some incredible people helping us all get through this pandemic

Moved to:

How to help out

Moved to:

Stuck at home? Here are a few things to do

Moved to:

If you need to laugh, here’s some light-hearted humour about what we’re all going through right now

Moved to:



Go to credible sources only. Experts include: the WHO, your local public health office, epidemiologists, virologists, and science communicators.

Let’s leave with this thought:


Signing off and toasting: To credible resources and incredible people!


Over to you

Here’s my question to you: Considering what we know right now about:

  • How contagious this is (very)
  • That there are many people who have no symptoms and spread it (it’s hard to track and prevent when some people who are infected feel fine)
  • How many people it harms (mainly older adults and those with other conditions, but no one is truly safe—not kids, not healthy adults—no one is guaranteed to have no symptoms or be free of serious health effects)
  • There is no good treatment (hydroxychloroquine hasn’t panned out) and we may be 1-2 years out before a safe, effective, universally available vaccine is ready
  • How well testing, tracing, and isolating infected people is working in your area

What would look like a win to you? Please add this to the comments below!

I’d love to know (in the comments below)!

Want a fairly constant flow of credible health information (and content marketing strategy)? Follow me on Twitter.

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Click on coupon code: NOVEL (as in the novel coronavirus).

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