A New Story About Coronavirus

A few months ago, I was taking a hike and scrolling through channels on my Walkman radio. A woman’s spoken voice caught my attention.

At first, I did not know why I kept listening, but after a while I was amazed at how many things this woman said I agreed with. The woman turned out to be science writer Sonia Shah ( and she was speaking about pandemics, a topic which she has studied extensively. I was impressed with her broad perspective on cholera, malaria, Lyme, Zika, and other diseases. She seemed to believe that governments are too frequently corrupt, corporations control everything, and environmental degradation is the cause of most human disease. I could not agree more.

Fast forward to July. A friend sent me an email about an article in The Nation entitled “It’s Time to Tell a New Story About Coronavirus – Our Lives Depend on It,”
( Lo and behold, it was written by Sonia Shah.

I was so impressed with the article, I submitted the following letter to the editor. An edited version was published in the Aug 24/31, 2020 edition of The Nation.

An Ounce of Prevention

Kudos to Sonia Shah for pointing out the need to tell a new story about Coronavirus. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with germ theory, but as Ms. Shah points out, it doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t address the question of how or why a host develops a disease. It skips over genetic, epigenetic, and nutritional factors; ignores the influence of medications and other disease states; and fails to address economic, environmental and geographic influences. And if the problem is only defined as the presence of a “germ,” then the solution is seen as killing the germ rather than changing the circumstances that enabled the microbe to cause illness.

The medical community would do well to adopt a broader perspective on illness using the model of integrated pest management (IPM) to control pests. In IPM, the first approach to dealing with insects in a building is not to pull out a poisonous spray, but to remove food and water sources, and seal cracks that allow insects to enter the building. Similarly, to control weeds, IPM focuses on creating healthy turf that is better able to exclude weeds. This approach is in line with the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. May we see the bigger picture of the Covid-19 pandemic and act accordingly.

Covid-19 and Chemical Sensitivities

Oh my!  Who could have imagined we would be living through a pandemic that has virtually brought the world to a standstill.  While everyone’s lives have been severely impacted by Covid-19, for those with chemical sensitivities, dealing with the virus, and precautions taken to reduce its spread, present some unique challenges, and surprisingly, some benefits.

The Covid-19 situation constitutes a triple threat:

  1. Health – Becoming ill from the virus
  2. Supply Chain – Disruptions in manufacturing and distribution of products, depletion of stock due to increased buying
  3. Economic – Increased unemployment, plummeting stock market, potential recession


Although there is a huge amount of conflicting and changing information about Covid-19, one consistent message is that prevention is the best strategy.  This may be one area where the chemically sensitive have an advantage, since we already know a lot about masks and staying away from other people! We are also quite experienced in air hugs, paying attention to what touched what, decontamination, putting potentially harmful items outside or in isolation rooms, and spending time alone.

But there are down sides to being chemically sensitive.  If we contract the virus, many of us could not tolerate a hospital environment or medications and life-saving procedures being used to treat severely ill patients with Covid-19.  Nor are we likely to be able to tolerate a vaccine for the virus.  Some of us, on the other hand, may already have supplemental oxygen at home which could be used to reduce shortness of breath associated with Covid infection.  

Another problem for chemically sensitive individuals is the increased use of sanitizers and disinfectants. Many of us do not tolerate bleach, rubbing alcohol, phenol (Lysol), and other chemicals being used to disinfect surfaces and hands.  Some of these products also contain fragrance which only adds to their toxicity. 

You might be wondering if chemically sensitive people are more susceptible to Covid-19 than healthy people.  In my experience, there is a wide range of susceptibility to viral respiratory infections among chemically sensitive individuals.  Some seem to come down with one bug after another, while others are only rarely affected.  I think the jury is still out on who is most susceptible to becoming infected with Covid-19, both for the general public as well as those with chemical sensitivities.

Now the good news. Air quality in many places has improved dramatically due to reduced industrial emissions and vehicle exhaust, among other things.  In northern NM, the Forest Service has even suspended prescribed burns.  What a welcome relief to be able to breathe outdoors with less chance of getting sick from air pollutants.

But for those who are electromagnetically hypersensitive (EHS), the situation is not good.  The new reliance on electronic devices to connect with others is increasing electropollution significantly.  Those sheltering at home are making more calls on their cell phones and spending more time on the internet, usually through wireless connections.  And there are already calls for expediting, rather than stalling, the installation of hazardous 5G networks to increase the speed and capacity of phone and internet connections. 


Those with chemical sensitivities are often dependent on a narrow range of foods, water, supplements, medicines, and other products that we tolerate.  If these become unavailable, we may be in real trouble, because there are no tolerated substitutes.  

The Covid-19 situation has shut down some manufacturing, much transportation, and sent people to nervously stock up on toilet paper and other items.  As a result, many foods and personal products like soap, shampoo, and laundry detergent may not be available. 

It is indeed shocking to go into stores and see rows of empty shelves that had been teeming with products only weeks ago.  Not being able to find needed products is stressful for everyone, but the impact on chemically sensitive people is especially great.

The only silver lining for chemically sensitive people is that we frequently stock up on precious tolerated items, like shampoo, dental floss, supplements, and other things, to make sure we have them in case they become temporarily or permanently unavailable.


Last, but not least, the Covid-19 situation is having a huge economic impact.  Unemployment rates have skyrocketed and stocks have plummeted.  Even though many chemically people do not work or own stocks, the Covid-19 virus can still have a financial impact.

Some chemically sensitive people are financially dependent on their employed spouses who may have lost their jobs.  Others may have a special needs trust invested in stocks that lost money.  Those who do work may see their business drop off substantially or be shut down.

For now, those on fixed incomes are probably financially secure, but if there is a serious economic recession, no one knows if there will be cuts in Social Security and other benefit programs. 

The bottom line is that this is an extremely difficult and unprecedented time for all of us.  Information about the Covid virus and recommendations for how to deal with it change daily.  For those with chemical sensitivities, whose lives are often hanging by a thread during the best of times, the Covid-19 crisis poses especially difficult challenges and adds to the already daunting task of trying to stay safe.