Dr. Neustadt Quarantined from COVID-19
- According to several epidemiological studies, unless drastic action is taken we’re currently on track to double the number of COVID-19 cases every six days.
- The American Health Association estimates that our healthcare system is about to be completely overrun with the sick and dying.
- But there are things you can do. My approach to protecting myself and my family is the same as it would be for the common cold or flu; with a few important changes.
- If you find this blog helpful, send it to a friend so we can all do our part to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect ourselves, our families and our communities.
by Dr. John Neustadt
As I write this, my family and I are in self quarantine. Our daughter shared a girl’s food at school. A day later we learned that one of the parents in that family tested positive for COVID-19 (the Coronavirus). So far, we haven’t shown any symptoms of the virus, and we hope it stays that way. But being quarantined has given me a lot more time to research and evaluate our current situation.
People are understandably nervous and scared. The disruptive impact COVID-19 is having on our communities, the healthcare system and our economy is unprecedented. Daily, state governments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are releasing stricter guidelines for businesses and human contact.
It’s important that everyone follow the CDC recommendations, which include hand washing and social distancing. Schools are closing around the country. Nonessential services such as bars, restaurants and nightclubs are going dark in many states.
The news on COVID-19 is everywhere and I don’t want to repeat what’s already out there. Instead, I want to share published research that I haven’t seen in the news. I also want to let you know what I’m doing for me and my family in the hopes that it can help you too.
Numbers You’re Not Seeing in the News
I am not an alarmist. I’m not a “sky is falling” kind of guy. I look at the research and base my conclusions on the best available evidence. What the data show is horrifying.
Consider the following. According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), there are approximately 925,000 hospital beds in the United States. About 10% of those are reserved for critical care patients.1 That means there are less than 100,000 hospital beds in the entire country for the most critically ill patients. And not all those hospital beds are empty; they’re currently being used by patients with other health conditions.
In February 2020, the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported that US hospitals have approximately 160,000 ventilators ready for use, with another nearly 9,000 held in a national reserve. The report doesn’t specify how many ventilators are commonly in use but estimates that demand could increase by 25% during an influenza pandemic.2 While we are currently in a COVID-19 pandemic, and not an influenza pandemic, the result will be similar: there will be an increased demand for ventilators.
According to several epidemiological studies, we can expect a doubling of cases every six days, regardless of whether or not there is testing.3 The rate of spread may appear faster in the coming weeks as diagnostic testing becomes more widespread and more cases are confirmed, but the overall doubling time for the actual spread of the disease is expected to stay fixed at every six days.
That means that without severe measures to control it, there could be about:
- One million cases by the end of April
- Two million by May 7
- Four million by May 13
- 16 million by May 19
- 18 million by May 25
- 36 million by May 31
- and so on.
At the current rate of the infection, the AHA projects the following impacts in the US:4
- Total Cases: 96 million (29% of the total US population)
- Cases requiring hospitalization: 5%
- Hospital admission: 4.8 million (remember, we have less than one million total hospital beds, and most are already being used)
- Cases requiring Intensive Care Unit (ICU) care: 1-2%
- ICU case: 1.9 million
- Cases requiring ventilator support: 1%
- Total number of ventilators required: 960,000 (remember, we only have about 170,000 total ventilators)
There’s a lot of uncertainty as to the percentage of people in the overall population with COVID-19 who are at risk of dying, called the mortality rate. An early release of a study scheduled for publication in June 2020 in the journal Emerging Infectious Disease concludes that the best estimate for policy makers and disease modelers is a mortality rate of 0.25% to 3.0%.5
In at-risk subsets of the population, the mortality rate is much higher. Adults older than 65 years are at higher risk. So are people with pre-existing conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease (eg, asthma, COPD) and immune deficiencies.
Using the AHA estimate that up to 96 million people could be infected with COVID-19 unless we take severe measures to quickly reduce human interaction, an estimated 240,000 to 28.8 million people will die.
More than anything else, this huge range demonstrates that we’re in uncharted territory. People who are simply writing this off as no worse than the flu have no idea what they’re talking about.
According to the CDC influenza infections and death estimates for the 2018-2019 flu season, approximately 35.5 million American people got the flu. Of those, 34,200 people died. That’s a mortality rate of 0.1%.6
Our healthcare system is about to be completely overrun. It’s crucial that every one of us do what we can to try and slow down the spread of this disease in the hope that it may buy us some time to allow our healthcare supplies and infrastructure to catch up. There currently isn’t even enough testing available in the US to know how many people are infected.
Think about Quarantine (Self-isolation) Differently
Most people with whom I speak discuss a quarantine in terms of protecting themselves from getting the disease. I believe that’s the wrong way to look at it.
Instead of thinking of a quarantine as a way to protect yourself from getting it, think of it like you already have the disease (even if you don’t) and that you’re trying to prevent it from spreading to others.
The virus is spread through human networks, and people can carry and spread the disease without having symptoms. The only thing that can slow the spread and the doubling time is decreasing human-to-human contact. There is no other option.
There are models out there for containing the epidemic—China, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea—all of which seem to be heading for quick recoveries. They implemented severe social isolation rules and rolled out massive testing programs. It would be wise for the US to learn from what others have done to act quickly and decisively to defeat COVID-19.
What You Can Do
For those of you who have followed my blogs or Facebook Lives, you know that I practice what I preach and base my decisions on the best available evidence. For COVID-19, there is no cure. There’s no herb, dietary supplement or magic potion that has been shown to prevent, treat or cure the infection. However, there are smart, scientifically sound approaches that can support your immune system and overall health.
Besides following the CDC guidelines, my approach to protecting me and my family is the same as it would be for the common cold or flu; with a few important changes. A strong immune system is our best defense. Here are a few of the things we do to give our immune systems a fighting chance.
Get your Zzzzz’s
Sleep deprivation decreases immune system activity and leaves you more vulnerable to infections.7-9 To make sure we’re doing everything we can to get great sleep, we follow the recommendations in my blog, Your Checklist to Beat Insomnia.
Cut the sugar
Sugar depresses immune function. We’re almost completely avoiding added sugars in our diets. Read labels carefully, especially where they list “added sugars.” These sugars include molasses, corn sweetener, sugar (raw sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, dextrose, fructose, glucose, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt sugar, turbinado, sucrose, galactose) and syrup (high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, crystalline fructose, maple syrup).
If we want a sweet treat, we’ll have a little dark chocolate or some fresh fruit. You can also take frozen fruit and blend it with pea- or almond-milk in a food blender (eg, a Vitamix) for a sweet and nutritious treat.
Ditch the dairy
Dairy is mucous forming,10 which can promote an environment hospitable viral and bacterial replication. While there are other reasons to avoid dairy, its ability to create mucous that can trap microorganisms is the big one with respect to our current public health crisis.
Eat a rainbow a day
Whole fruits and vegetables are high alkaline foods that provide the raw materials—vitamins, mineral and other plant nutrients—your body needs. In contrast, acid foods such as meat and highly refined food tend to be low in important micronutrients. For a list of foods, ready my blog, Top Alkaline Foods to Eat and Acidic Foods to Avoid.
Sip nourishing broth
Whenever someone in our family feels a little sinus congestion starting to set in, or we notice some sniffles, or we start to feel generally run down and as if our body is fighting something, we whip up a batch of my broth. All it contains is onion, garlic, and a few common spices. I love simple solutions because they’re easy to implement and effective. I hope you love it as much as we do. For the recipe, see my Dr. Neustadt’s Cold and Flu Killer blog.
Exercise a healthy amount
Regular, moderate-intensity exercise can improve overall immune function.11 For tips on working exercise into your day, especially if you now find yourself working from home, read my blog, 5 Simple Ways to Work Exercise into Your Life.
Make some fun
Romi and I decided that we’re going to focus on making the best of this situation, for ourselves and our children. With both kids being schooled from home, we’re making sure to step-up the family fun. Since they can’t get together with friends, we’re making sure to play more games. And we’re cooking more together, listening to music and building puzzles. Whatever your situation, look to create fun and enjoyment.
Get fresh air and sunshine
While we may not be able to congregate with friends, we can still get outside and get some fresh air and sunshine. We’re going for walks, walking the dog more and going for hikes with the kids. Not only do these activities improve mood and get us moving, we get a boost of vitamin D when we’re out in the sun.
I want to be clear. There is no known nutrient, herb or dietary supplement that has been shown to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19. But dietary supplements can play an important role in supporting normal physiological function, such as promoting a healthy immune system. This is what my wife and I take.
Supreme Multivitamin: Micronutrient deficiencies—deficiencies of vitamins and minerals—are common and decrease immune function. According to a 2018 review article published in the journal Nutrients, “Immune function may be improved by restoring deficient micronutrients to recommended levels, thereby increasing resistance to infection and supporting faster recovery when infected. Diet alone may be insufficient and tailored micronutrient supplementation based on specific age-related needs necessary.”12
I created Supreme Multivitamin for my patients because I couldn’t find an existing product that met my standards. Supreme Multivitamin contains high doses of the most absorbable forms of minerals, B-complex vitamins, 1000 IU (25 mcg) of vitamin D3 and 1000 mg of vitamin C, plus CoQ10, grape seed extract, citrus bioflavonoids and other antioxidants
MitoForte: I take MitoForte to support healthy mitochondria. Mitochondria produce cellular energy and participate in the immune response. A 2019 article in the journal Redox Biology concluded that mitochondria are a central hub of the immune system and that they can “orchestrate immunity by modulating both metabolic and physiologic states in different types of immune cells.”13
Sleep Relief promotes healthy sleep. Sleep Relief’s bi-phasic, time-release technology delivers NBI’s proprietary formula with clinically validated nutrients in two stages—a quick-release first stage and a slow-release second stage to help you gently fall asleep, stay asleep and wake refreshed and ready for your day.
There are other fantastic companies out there run by owners and managers who adhere to high manufacturing standards and have a strong desire to help people. Wise Woman Herbals (WWH) is one of those companies. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of getting to know the owners and some of their staff over the last five years.
Because NBI doesn’t formulate and manufacture botanical tinctures, syrups and teas, when I want top-notch botanicals, I turn to WWH to stock up. Plants and plant compounds have been shown to support the immune system and many that have been shown in studies to have antimicrobial activities.
This is what I purchased and what Romi and I are taking:
- Licorice (Glycerrhiza glabra) solid extract and Eleuthero solid extract: I take 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of each, each morning, mix them in hot water and drink it like I would a tea. Not only can this provide immune support, it’s also a great adrenal support combination.
- Immune Glycerite
- Cellular Support
Control what you can control and release the rest
Finally, I’ll leave you with this. There’s only so much in this situation any of us can control. We’ve stocked up on food. We’ve arranged the children’s bedrooms for home schooling. We’ve stopped visiting my mother-in-law because she’s in a residential facility and at high risk for dying. And we’re doing everything in this blog.
Since we’re feeling prepared and we feel safe, it’s easier to release the inevitable stress that comes with these uncertain times and find the joy. I wish nothing less for you and your family.
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1Fast Facts on US Hospitals, 2020. American Hospital Association. Accessed March 16, 2020. [Web page]
2Ventilator Stockpiling and Availability in the US. John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Health Security. Published 2020. Accessed March 16, 2020. [Report]
3Wu JT, Leung K, Leung GM. Nowcasting and forecasting the potential domestic and international spread of the 2019-nCoV outbreak originating in Wuhan, China: a modelling study. Lancet. 2020;395(10225):689-697. [Article]
4Ramsey L. One slide in a leaked presentation for US hospitals reveals that they’re preparing for millions of hospitalizations as the outbreak unfolds. Business Insider. Published March 6, 2020. Accessed March 16, 2020. [Article]
5Wilson N, Kvalsvig A, Barnard LT, Baker MG. Case-Fatality Risk Estimates for COVID-19 Calculated by Using a Lag Time for Fatality. Emerg Infect Dis. 2020;26(6). [Article]
6Estimated Influenza Illnesses, Medical visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths in the United States — 2018–2019 influenza season. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published 2020. Accessed March 18, 2020. [Article]
7Cover H, Irwin M. Immunity and depression: insomnia, retardation, and reduction of natural killer cell activity. J Behav Med. 1994;17(2):217-223. [Article]
8Savard J, Laroche L, Simard S, Ivers H, Morin CM. Chronic insomnia and immune functioning. Psychosom Med. 2003;65(2):211-221. [Article]
9Passos GS, Poyares D, Santana MG, et al. Exercise improves immune function, antidepressive response, and sleep quality in patients with chronic primary insomnia. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:498961. [Article]
10Frosh A, Cruz C, Wellsted D, Stephens J. Effect of a dairy diet on nasopharyngeal mucus secretion. Laryngoscope. 2019;129(1):13-17. [Article]
11Simpson RJ, Kunz H, Agha N, Graff R. Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2015;135:355-380. [Article]
12Maggini S, Pierre A, Calder PC. Immune Function and Micronutrient Requirements Change over the Life Course. Nutrients. 2018;10(10). [Article]
13Breda CNS, Davanzo GG, Basso PJ, Saraiva Camara NO, Moraes-Vieira PMM. Mitochondria as central hub of the immune system. Redox Biol. 2019;26:101255. [Article]
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