An Important Coronavirus Message from Albert Hsu, LANL Scientist

HSU lays out very clearly the science behind this epidemic and why it is indeed an enormous threat to millions of Americans. We then provide a spiritual view on the epidemic from Paul Levy.

A week after this post was first published, it continues to be read by hundreds of people each day, so it is obviously being forwarded to and read by people new to Retake Our Democracy. If you found this post by having it forwarded to you by a friend or if you got it from a shared Facebook post, you can ensure you receive this kind of analysis regularly..

If you find it compelling take a look at yesterday’s (below) and take a tour of our website. We blog 4 days a week and please consider subscribing to the blog. Click here to subscribe and try it for a week or two. At the same page you can sign up for our action alerts. During the legislative session they are published almost every day, providing you with speaking points and contact information whenever one of our Priority Bills is coming up for a vote. The rest of the year, the alerts are used to notify you when a commission, like the Public Regulation Commission is holding a hearing or when hearings are being held related to our environment, like the recent hearings on LANL’s plutonium pits or the Energy Departments hearings on methane rules.

Yesterday’s post examined “social distancing:” what it is, why it is important and how to incorporate the concept into your daily lives. The post also included a critique of Trump’s leadership and contrasted it with that of our Governor and then concluded with two video, one quite funny (we need humor these days) as Trevor Noah skewered DT and the other a message from Bernie Sanders, illustrating what leadership can look like.

Also, after this post was published, Retake published a follow up post on how long social distancing could last and how panic buying and hoarding actually increases the risk of contracting the virus. Click here to check out this post.

Today’s Post

I received the letter below from one of our readers. It is the clearest, most science-based explanation of what the virus is, how it spreads, why we need to take it very seriously, and how we should behave. Paul Levy offers a completely different view on the virus, seeing it as a kind of message from nature, alerting humanity to how far it has strayed spiritually and how much we must change..

I suspect many of you are beginning to realize just how dramatically this virus is changing our lives. The sense of personal isolation has likely not fully set in. We need to somehow find community while in isolation and so I encourage any who care, to offer their comments about how they are feeling and what they need from Retake over the coming weeks.

Coronavirus From the Eyes of a LANL Scientist & Then From the Eyes of a Spiritual Leader

This is a letter from Albert Hsu, scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Dear Friends,
So much confusion, misinformation and denial is bouncing around on social media about the coronavirus that I thought I would try to explain, in plain language, why the experts see this as such an emergency.

You will see the claim online that this virus is a lot like the viruses that cause colds, and that if you get it, it will probably just seem like a bad cold and you are very unlikely to die. Depending on who you are, these statements are probably true. But they are incomplete, and the missing information is the key to understanding the problem.

This is a coronavirus that is new to the human population, jumping into people late last year from some kind of animal, probably at a wildlife market in Wuhan, China. It is related to the viruses that cause colds, and acts a lot like them in many ways. It is very easy to transmit through the respiratory droplets that all of us give off. But nobody has ever been exposed to this before, which means nobody has any immunity to it.

The virus is now moving explosively through the human population. While most people will recover, about 20 percent of the people who catch it will wind up with a serious disease. They will get pneumonia that causes shortness of breath, and they may need hospitalization.

Some of those people will get so sick that they cannot be saved and will die of the pneumonia. The overall death rate for people who develop symptoms seems to be 2 or 3 percent. Once we have enough testing to find out how many people caught the virus but did not develop symptoms, that might come down to about 1 percent, optimistically. It could be even lower, but 1 percent is the estimate given to Congress by the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, so we will go with that.

If the number is 1 percent, that is a large number. It is at least 10 times higher than the mortality rate for the seasonal flu, for instance, which in some years kills 60,000 or 70,000 Americans. So just on that math, we could be looking at 600,000 or 700,000 dead in the United States. But it gets worse.
Older people with existing health problems are much more vulnerable, on average. The mortality rate of coronavirus among people over age 80 may be 15 or 20 percent. It appears to have 7 or 8 percent mortality for people aged 70 to 79. Here is the terrible part: If you are a healthy younger person, you can catch the virus and, without developing serious symptoms yourself, you can pass it along to older people. In other words, as the virus spreads, it is going to be very easy to go out and catch it, give it to your grandmother and kill her, even though you will not die yourself. You can apparently catch it by touching a door knob or an elevator button, although the likeliest route seems to be droplets spreading through the air directly from one person to another.

Scientists measure the spread of an epidemic by a number called R0, or “R naught.” That number is calculated this way: for every person who develops the illness, how many other people do they give it to before they are cured (or dead) and no longer infectious? The R0 for coronavirus, in the absence of a control strategy, appears to be a number close to 3 – maybe a bit higher or lower, but in that ballpark. This is an extremely frightening number for such a deadly disease.

Suppose you catch the virus. You will give it to 3 other people, and they will each give it to three others, and so forth. Here is how the math works, where you, the “index case,” are the first line:

So, in just 15 steps of transmission, the virus has gone from just one index case to 14.3 million other people. Those 15 steps might take only a few weeks. The index person may be young and healthy, but many of those 14 million people will be old and sick, and they will likely die because they got a virus that started in one person’s throat.

The United States is not at this point yet, with millions infected, as best we can tell. We don’t really know, because our government has failed us. We are many, many weeks behind other countries in rolling out widespread testing, so we don’t really have a clue how far the thing has spread. We do know that cases are starting to pop up all over the place, with many of the people having no known exposure to travelers from China, so that means this virus has escaped into our communities.

We do not have approved treatments, yet. We do not have a vaccine. The only tool we really have now is to try to slow down the chain of transmission.

This can be done. In other words, R0 is not fixed – it can be lowered by control measures. If we can get the number below 1, the epidemic will die out. This is the point of the quarantines and the contact-tracing that you are hearing so much about in the news. But the virus is exploding so fast that we will not have the labor available to trace contacts for much longer, so we have to shift strategies. This has already begun, but we are not doing it fast enough.

It is now likely that the majority of Americans will get this virus. But slowing it down is still crucial. Why? Because the healthcare system has limited resources. We only have about a million hospital beds in America. We have fewer than 100,000 ventilators. If millions of Americans get sick enough to need treatment, we will have a calamity on our hands. What will happen is a form of battlefield triage, where the doctors focus on trying to treat the young and allow the older people to die.

This is not theoretical. It is already happening in Italy, where the oldest people are being left alone on hospital gurneys to suffocate to death from pneumonia. They basically drown in their own sputum. There is simply not enough medical capacity to take care of them. The United States appears to be about two weeks behind Italy on the epidemic growth curve.

What do we need to do now? We need to cancel all large gatherings – all of them. You have probably seen that the N.B.A. has postponed the rest of its season. Other sporting events, concerts, plays and everything else involving large audiences in a small space – all of it needs to be canceled. Even if these events take place, do not go to them. No lectures, no plays, no movies, no cruises – nothing.

Stay at home as much as possible.Stay out of restaurants. I would cancel any travel that is not absolutely essential. Work from home if you possibly can. You may have to go buy groceries and medicine, of course, but make the trips quick and purposeful. Wash your hands assiduously after you have been in public places, for a full 20 seconds, soaping up thoroughly and being sure to get between the fingers. Rubbing alcohol will kill the virus, and most strong cleaners such as Lysol will do so as well.

And please stop passing around statements on social media claiming that the situation is not serious or is being exaggerated. This is a national crisis, and conveying misinformation to your friends and family may put their lives in danger.


The above post from Albert Hsu lays out the science behind this epidemic, below we have a view of the coronavirus from a spiritual perspective. Interestingly, Paul Levy describes the epidemic as a kind of biblical plague sending us a clear message that we need to fundamentally change our values, priorities and the way we relate to each other.

Below is a post written by Paul Levy. A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a wounded healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. He is the founder of the Awakening in the Dream Community in Portland, Oregon. Paul is the author of The Quantum Revelation: A Radical Synthesis of Science and Spirituality (SelectBooks, May, 2018), Awakened by Darkness: When Evil Becomes Your FatherDispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil and The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis. An artist, he is deeply steeped in the work of C. G. Jung, and has been a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner for over thirty years.

You can visit Paul’s website You can contact Paul at; he looks forward to your reflections.
We have never lived in more uncertain times. There has clearly been something out of whack in our world for as long as any of us can remember, but up until the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic many of us could still afford to be in denial, looking away, avoiding what is more and more insistently staring us in the face. Most of us have been going on with life as normal, pretending—as if playing a game of make-believe—that everything is fine, thank you very much. Anyone who thinks otherwise is labeled crazy, a conspiracy theorist, overly paranoid or otherwise marginalized in any number of ways. 
In the most simplistic terms, our world has been out of balance, and we have been ignoring its messages, which—just like a recurring dream—serves to guarantee that its messages will become more amplified and harder to ignore until they reach catastrophic levels. As if the veil is being lifted, the coronavirus pandemic has shown—in no uncertain terms—how thin and flimsy the walls are between a seemingly well-ordered and predictable world and utter chaos. The unconscious ways we have been living—as well as our illusions—have become unsustainable and are breaking down at warp speed. The meaning of the word “catastrophe” in ancient Greek is “a turning point.” We have reached a point of necessary transformation in the evolution of our species. 
An invisible specter in the field, the coronavirus is creating havoc in our world, disrupting business as usual as it ripples—both in our world and within our psyches—throughout the globe. To quote the doctor of the soul C. G. Jung, “Everything could be left undisturbed did not the new way demand to be discovered, and did it not visit humanity with all the plagues of Egypt until it finally is discovered.” The coronavirus can be envisioned as a modern-day plague of Egypt. It is a living revelation that is dying to show us something about who we are and our place in the universe. What it is revealing to us is crucially important for us to know. Our very survival depends upon receiving its message.   
It would take something truly radical—for example, to let the imagination run wild, an invasion by evil aliens from outer space—to snap humanity out of our collective spell of thinking that we are separate from each other so as to inspire us to join forces with each other (adversaries included) to be able to successfully deal with a collective existential threat to our very survival. It is an archetypal idea that forces that would do evil invariably wind up catalyzing a greater good. Regardless of its origin, the coronavirus can be conceived of as being the novel form that the forces of disease and destruction are unwittingly taking to fulfill the function of helping our species recognize our interconnectedness with each other and all of life.
We literally depend upon each other for our very well-being and survival. When seen as a dream symbol laden with a message, the coronavirus reveals to us that instead of fighting each other, we can recognize the indisputable truth – we are all on the same side. We can unite as one so as to overcome our common enemy, which on one level is the coronavirus, but on a deeper level is our ignorance of our connection with each other. In other words, the coronavirus is the medicine that can help us get over ourselves and realize that the most vital and urgent task for humanity is to see through what Einstein famously calls an “optical delusion of consciousness” – the illusion of the separate self. 
One of the major symptoms of the coronavirus is that it induces fear – which is known to weaken the immune system, thereby allowing the virus to more easily propagate itself. When fear is collectively mobilized, due to its psychically contagious nature, it takes on a seemingly autonomous and independent life of its own, feeding mass panic that easily turns into a collective psychosis. To see through the illusion of the separate self is at the same time to take away the power that fear has over us (as well as to empower ourselves), for the experience of separation and fear (of “the other”) mutually co-arise, reciprocally reinforcing each other. Genuine compassion (which strengthens the immune system) is the result of this realization.
It is of the utmost significance, however, that the coronavirus is a quantum phenomenon, in that it contains within itself both death-creating poison as well as its own medicine. Encoded in the virus is its own vaccine – as interdependently connected cells in a greater living organism, each of us is being demanded by the coronavirus to realize how we can synergistically co-operate together so as to resist and overcome its invasion. Though itself continually mutating, the coronavirus is, when push comes to shove, forcing us to mutate—to expand our consciousness—or else! As such, the coronavirus is a powerful catalyst for human evolution. How this pandemic will ultimately manifest depends upon—in true quantum style, potentially—whether or not we recognize what it is revealing to us about ourselves.  
We clearly haven’t yet been able to sufficiently, as a species, see through the seemingly intractable and persistent illusion of the separate self and recognize our collective interdependence. Seen as a dreaming phenomenon, we have collectively dreamed up a global pandemic, a modern-day plague of Egypt, an invasion by a seemingly alien microbe from which no one is immune so as to help us dispel the primary illusion of the separate self and assist us in facing the reality of who we are in the greater scheme of things. As Jung reminds us, a “new way”—which he likens to an undiscovered vein that lives within the greater body politic of humanity that connects us all—is demanding to be discovered. We will be complicit in creating a tragedy of historic proportions if we miss the hidden, golden opportunity that is encoded within the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus is helping us realize who we are relative to each other—one human family—thereby inspiring us to come together as one. This is the gift concealed within the disease that not only helps us to heal the disease, but heals us as well.  

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

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13 replies

  1. thank you for writing so well – maybe beyond good and evil is the evolution of the changing balances of of life through which it is very myopic and illusory to be short sighted. on most levels we obviously prefer life over death.

  2. Thank you!

  3. Paul Levy’s talk is a great reminder. Perhaps covid-19 is a fast acting Egyptian plague. Climate change is another. Shall we wake up and join each other? Top see one answer google the NY Times article on singing from the porches in Italy. It touched my heart.

  4. Albert’s letter is the most plainspoken description on the outcomes of covid infection I have seen in all the reading I’m doing.
    I wish this would appear in our local newspapers and nationwide.
    A thought: it would be kinder to kill us grandparents, who succumb, with morphine than to let us drown in our fluids.
    I have seen the latter…a terrible death.
    Thank you for bringing the letter to us.

    • You are seriously going to make that statement about “killing grandparents”? Did you not just read the Buddhist comments on this being an OPENING. We need to pull ourselves out of this truly dark place where we have been languishing WAY too long. There IS light here but we have to OPEN OUR EYES in order to see it and walk toward it.

      • I just read a horrifying article about 20 somethings in NY, LA, and elsewhere hitting the bars defiantly and repudiating any fear of their getting cuz they won’t get that sick. A) that is wrong. Half the people who have died so far are under 50 and B) there is a much higher proportion of serious implications of infection for those over 60 and so quite literally it is true that such brazen disregard could be viewed as your being responsible for the deaths of your grandparents or others grandparents. Not very Zen to point it out, but….

      • It seems Karen Nelson said, “us grandparents” and I took it to mean she is a grandparent and of the age where if she were in Italy at the moment, she might be left to drown in her own fluids. I think she was stating, as I would also like to state, that I would much more prefer to be able to end my own life if it gets to that point by pushing the morphine pump as opposed to having them just leave me in a hallway to suffocate.

      • Telling how low the bar has fallen for what we want out of life. I am with you, Amy, but feel the best all of us can do is STAY HOME. 24-7 until you absolutely MUST go out to get food or medications….and if you can afford it, use CSAs and other sources for home delivery of food.

  5. Excellent post, Paul. And very good information and insights for those who don’t have it. Extrapolating Levy’s conclusion of a “golden opportunity” to the socioeconomic/political spheres, I invite all readers to imagine novel tactics and strategies that might be used once the barbaric national/institutional entities begin to break down, as they surely will. There will be chinks in the dark borgosphere, and it is through these cracks that the beginnings of a more humane society can be cultivated. Now let’s use our imaginations to come up with some good ideas.

  6. I would listen to epidemiologists, MD’s, Nurses, and to those practicing Chinese, Native American, Ayurveda medicine. But never to a scientist working for an organization specializing in creating deadly weapons. And, truly, I already learned about 95% of what he wrote. Albert Hsu is an ELECTRICAL ENGINEER WITH A BS DEGREE. Of course I may be done the wrong search and got the wrong person.

    We should be motivated to learn ourselves about the Corona virus from different reliable sources. Here are some.

    • Funny that Hsu has no background in epidemiology, which I actually assumed as LANL doesn’t work in that area. But his message was spot on, so I don’t think it is fair to dismiss the message because of the background of the messenger. Hell, I have a BA in English. 😉

  7. Hsu has science, facts and good technical writing skills, there are still a few smart people up there in Los Alamos. Unfortunately these kinds of explanations should have been provided months ago, the virus is already among us. When we had a functioning government our CDC would have been at ground zero, back in December.

    This is some serious stuff, that not enough people are taking seriously. It is going to have a profound effect on our society, and what they are not saying, is that it is going to be around a for a while. Projections say it will peak next Winter, that means restrictions for months, if not all Summer.

    I am worried for all for the people who still believe the administration, or the deceptive corporate media spin on it. There has been of of misinformation from local journalists, who are not science writers, and have no clear line between journalism and marketing.

    The first person arrested in Kentucky, it is looking like they are going to have to do mandatory lock downs, there are just too many idiots out there.

    On the bright side, maybe this will be the end of Neoliberalism!

  8. I’m not sure why but I have had this quote from Jung on my desk top for several months. I’ve been thinking a LOT about his writings of the “dark side” as well.

    The gigantic catastrophes that threaten us today ARE NOT elemental happenings of a physical or biological order, but psychic events. To a quite terrifying degree we are threatened by wars and revolutions which are nothing other than psychic epidemics. At any moment several million human beings may be smitten with a new madness, and then we shall have another world war or devastating revolution. Instead of being at the mercy of wild beasts, earthquakes, landslides, and inundations, modern man is battered by the elemental forces of his own psyche. Carl Jung

    I am going to commit myself to digging deep within my “self” to find a place of “one” while the world swirls in the agony of separation. I want to admit here that I have been quite fearful and ANGRY this week at my fellow human beings–to no avail of course. With a lot of extra time available, I will use the topic above to contemplate my own role, my own attitude, and my own fear.

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