Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Last Plane to Shanghai

On Friday at midnight in China, a ban on foreigners entering China went into effect. What may have been the last plane before the ban from North America to Shanghai landed on Friday evening, a flight from Vancouver. Unfortunately for me but fortunately for China and for her, my wife was on that plane. Though I joked that my wife was taking social distancing to a 6,000-mile extreme -- "really, honey, six feet should be enough" -- in reality my wife was driven by a profound sense of commitment to her students at the international school where she teaches math. Her employer and the students really need her as the school prepares to reopen. She's been teaching remotely late at night here in Wisconsin for the past few weeks, but now as China has made great progress in controlling the virus, it seems that schools may open soon, and her employer asked her and all her fellow teachers to return. 

The suggestion (not a command) to return came on Monday last week while my wife and I were enjoying our time with family here in Wisconsin in spite of the pain and uncertainty created by the Corona virus. Since our "medical refugee" exodus from Asia (we were in Vietnam during the Chinese New Year and decided to flee to the US as flights were being cancelled and chaos arising over the corona virus), she had continued to work remotely, holding sessions with students late at night here (morning for the students). I had hoped and prayed that she would not be required to go back. Yes, it would be nice to recover things from our apartment and close out some bank accounts there, but if needed, I'd be happy to just lose it all and start life over here, where we were already planning to return this year due to my work in the US and the need to finally be closer to family. But when she saw that schools may be opening, she felt a strange urge to return quickly.

Getting back seemed impossible, though. Major US airlines did not have a way to get her back. Travel services like Orbitz or Travelocity did not show a way back was possible. She lost over a day seeking possibilities. The only route that could get her back quickly seemed to be through Taiwan, but  there were concerns about Taiwan's strict and successful rules that might prevent her from the transit required between airports. It turns out that had she chosen the Taiwan route, she would have been sent back to the US. Finally, after many hours of frustration, she contacted a Chinese airline and learned that there were seats available. There were seats left on an April 6 flight from Chicago, not too far from our place in Wisconsin, and four seats left on a Thursday flight from Vancouver. She feared that the convenient Chicago flight would be too late. So on Tuesday, she booked a very expensive flight -- the most expensive flight we have ever purchased, about $3000  for an economy seat -- for that Thursday Vancouver-Shanghai flight, and had to buy additional tickets on other airlines to get to Vancouver, which required leaving Wisconsin early the next morning.

This whole time I was hoping that there would be some announcement coming out that would keep her here, at my side, because my life is quite wrapped around her companionship. She didn't want me to go for several reasons, including my job, the need to take care of our old house that we just moved back into, the need to help family with some of their challenges here. That all made sense. It was losing her to China for the next 3 months that didn't make sense to me.

That night, the night before her flights began at 6:15 AM the next morning, she asked me for a priesthood blessing. It was a very emotional time for us. We didn't want to be apart, but we had important duties that needed to be fulfilled. For me, it felt like sending her off on a mission, with vastly more reluctance and concern than I experienced in sending each of our four sons on missions. When I put my hands on her head and gave her a short blessing, seeking to listen to the Spirit, I felt impressed to talk about the people who needed her there and the many souls she would touch, both in her work and in her fellowship with friends and fellow members of the Church, where she is also definitely needed. I think the blessing was really for me: I saw a much bigger picture in that blessing, and felt at peace that she was doing the right thing and would have the Lord's help, no matter what happened. But I also recognize that I can't pick the outcome. We are getting along in years, and this virus could cost one or both of us our lives before we meet again (and I still didn't even have insurance for the US, just for China, a concern I've about got fixed -- the Health.gov system completely failed for me and the site's tech support supervisor could not help: "Sometimes this just happens, sorry!"). But in spite of the fear, I'm at peace and so very proud of her.

I see that China is doing all the can to bring their economy and normal life back online. The risk of disease needs to be weighted against the cost of shutting down education, of impairing health through poverty, of losing the fabric of society that can make life so wonderful in China. Cautious steps to revitalize the nation are under way. Meanwhile, we can learn from South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan, where the virus is being brought under control without shutting down the economy. I believe Asia will rise swiftly from this crisis. And they will need sharp students with good math skills. My wife will be a small part of that.

She was so blessed to be able go. Shortly after she got one of the last tickets from North America to China, China announced a ban on foreigners that went into effect shortly after she landed. Half of the teachers in her large math department ended up being stranded outside of China, unable to return. She is desperately needed at her school. She was also blessed to not have to be quarantined in a government-run facility for two weeks, but has been allowed to do her quarantine in her apartment, with an electronic monitor on the door to ensure she complies with the strict and sensible regulations. She was treated with kindness, and the Communist Party cadre who managed her return to her apartment was very kind and showed her things like how to order groceries and so forth. There are so many kind people in China.

So many things worked together to get her back where she was needed -- all counter to my wishes and prayers, but that's how it often is.

Last night I participated via Zoom.us with our Shanghai International Branch's church services. It was wonderful to be there and to be able to watch her face during the service. A better view than I normally get sitting on the stand during church. I'm glad she made it back and glad for her school and for China. I wish I could have been with her on that last plane to Shanghai, but look forward to getting her back when she's completed a vital mission in a place where we both feel she is needed now.

Kudos to China for it s progress in controlling the disease. Kudos to Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan for your progress as well. Today I join many Latter-day Saints in fasting and prayer for the Lord's assistance in helping the world to cope with this crisis, seeking both temporal and spiritual help to make the world a better place and to get over this problem soon. We may wish to pray for guidance in our lives, pray for our leaders to make wise decisions, pray for blessings to be upon our medical workers and those seeking innovative solutions, pray for those who have lost jobs and businesses that they may have hope and that the economy may revive to lift the burden of poverty on some many. We need so much guidance from above!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Great War Against the Virus: Maybe It's Time We Give Peace a Chance

I was saddened to hear the views online of some of the college students partying in Florida during spring break. Not just because they seemed so oblivious to the health risks we as a nation are trying to control, but also because they didn't seem to be putting their generous student loans to the best academic use. Many of their faces are now on file, showing total disregard for the government's request that we practice social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Well, I have a message for them, a warning to all reckless students and many of the rest of you as well: the government knows who you are and where you live, and soon someone from the government will be coming to your door. When they do, don't try to hide, don't try to run, but simply face reality and take what's coming to you: a $1,200 check, delivered by the US Postal Service, courtesy of the thankful taxpayers of America.

That's right, the government is going to catch up with you and give you a hefty check. And your student loans will probably be forgiven. So next time there's a global pandemic, don't go partying in Florida. Think about the Riviera or Hawaii instead. Maybe Thailand. Now you can afford it, and since you don't owe anything to the rest of us anymore, you owe it to yourself to go enjoy.

I was also saddened while driving, listening to the radio, to hear President Trump speaking in a press conference where he talked about his plans to help big companies that are hurting. He said, "We're going to back the airlines 100%. It's not their fault.... We'll be ... helping them very much." I was so puzzled. I rushed home and grabbed an aging copy of the Constitution from the bottom of my tightly-packed suitcase and scanned it again. Where did the Founders write that the President had power to dish out money to big companies if something unfortunate happened? Must have been written in invisible ink, like lemon juice, that only becomes visible when held over a candle. I was out of candles, but there was a gas stove in the kitchen where I was staying. I fired up a burner, gently held the Constitution over it, and suddenly it all became clear. Yes, the power of the President to do anything he wants, and for Congress to do anything they want, was clearly visible in the swirling wisps of smoke that arose from the ashes of that document.  So that's how they justify the looting!

Bad things have happened to all of us with the corona virus. Our health is one casualty: even if you are virus free, the stress of an economic shutdown is enormous, not to mention the harms of decreased exercise with gyms closed, decreased health care for non-emergencies, increased suicide among the depressed and unemployed, etc. Other disappointments may include our jobs, our investments, our schools, or even our stale over-priced avocado toast while partying on a beach in Florida. It's not our fault in most cases. So is the government supposed to take over everything to fix all our woes? But yes, I know what you're thinking: poor Boeing! With their horrible mismanagement and disregard for safety that made the whole world fear their new wonder plane that kept crashing, their airplane sales have sunk. Mega owie! Of course they need 60 billion or so to ease their pain.

The whole country has been suffering, not so much from the few thousand cases of the virus which actually aren't yet causing more illness or deaths than the flu does most years (but yes, of course, it's more dangerous than the flu, perhaps largely because so few are immune to it), but from the extreme measures imposed by government. The unnecessary panic of the Federal Reserve Bank in slashing interest rates, resulting in extreme market fears and devastation to investors and corporation, coupled with the extreme attention to the virus by the media, have created as sense of panic. This is what those seeking power and attention love, for every crisis is a chance to grab more money, more power, more fame for taking a popular "leadership" role in the looting. Now it's a race between parties and politicians all over the country to see who can "do more" to save the country by, say, shutting down the economy and taking control of more of the wealth of the nation to redistribute it their way.

Ever since the birth of this nation, however flawed its course has been at times, many Americans have taken pride in the desire to stand for freedom and liberty, even at the risk of life itself. While wicked men may have sometimes exploited those noble sentiments in unjustified wars, America has been a land where liberty truly was a prized goal sought by large numbers of its citizens and leaders (though, sadly, the chains of slaves were ignored too long). Better to abandon security and comfort than to surrender freedom and give power to tyrants. Many of our Founding Fathers were men of that caliber, in spite of serious flaws, and many put their lives on the line in opposing the tyranny of Great Britain in order to secure a chance for freedom for future generations. They went to war to secure liberty, and it would not be the last time Americans would be willing to die for their liberty or for the liberty of others.

Today we are in a new war, a war that may prove to be more costly and painful than most of our trials in the past. But instead of fighting for liberty, we are being asked in this war to surrender liberty for security. Hand more power to government and a vast chunk of the total GDP to allow them to pick winners, buy votes, and spend trillions in ways that can only prolong the pain.

A few weeks ago I heard Republicans were warning against the vile threat of Bernie Sanders, the socialist, who wanted to just send out checks for $1000 to everyone. This kind of inflationary redistribution of wealth would destroy the country and wreck the economy. Now the "fix" for the economy being touted by Republicans is to hand out even more money ($1,200 per partyer) in pretty much the same way. It's a dream come true for the banksters who will profit enormously from the trillions they will handle. It adds incredible burdens to future generations -- shackles of debt and government control. But we are supposed to trust our politicians, who won't even read the massive 800-page spending spree bill they are voting on. Trust and comply, for the enemy is terrifying and has wiped out thousands, like over 3,000 among the 1+ billion people of China, unlike the flu that kills tens of thousands each year in the US. So scary that we have to shut down almost everything and let politicians take the reigns and loot the nation. Together we will win this war and it will only cost you everything.

This patriotic war, one that calls us to surrender liberty for security and to trust the most untrustworthy people on the planet as they seize more and more power, promising to take are of us and make us more dependent on them, brings out the pacifist in me. When it comes to the Great War Against the Virus, maybe it's time we give peace a chance.


Meanwhile, some hopeful possibilities are emerging. Here's one, based on a study from Oxford. Are they right? I hope so, but don't know. There's also a follow-up discussion looking at fever rates in general. There is still much we don't know for sure due to inadequate testing and lack of blood testing in particular. It's why we might really need more data and time before we let government think pull a trigger that may be shooting ourselves in both feet.  I also was intrigued by the perspectives of Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg, a noted German physician (see Wikipedia's page with commentary on his views), who argues that what the world is doing is a dramatic overreaction. His video discussion has English subtitles.


Dr. Wodarg is also one of several other medical experts speaking out against the excessive panic over SARS-CoV-2, a.k.a. the Corona virus. Many interesting observations there. Maybe we are plunging into ultimate disaster and need to shut everything down, but I prefer to be optimistic, and would rather that we act cautiously without surrendering too much to those who stand to profit from panic. Here's a quote from one of those 12 experts, Dr. Joel Kettner, a professor of Community Health Sciences and Surgery at Manitoba University, former Chief Public Health Officer for Manitoba province and Medical Director of the International Centre for Infectious Diseases:
I have never seen anything like this, anything anywhere near like this. I’m not talking about the pandemic, because I’ve seen 30 of them, one every year. It is called influenza. And other respiratory illness viruses, we don’t always know what they are. But I’ve never seen this reaction, and I’m trying to understand why....

I worry about the message to the public, about the fear of coming into contact with people, being in the same space as people, shaking their hands, having meetings with people. I worry about many, many consequences related to that....

In Hubei, in the province of Hubei, where there has been the most cases and deaths by far, the actual number of cases reported is 1 per 1000 people and the actual rate of deaths reported is 1 per 20,000. So maybe that would help to put things into perspective.
Do continue preparing and washing hands. You might wish to have some cash on hand, maybe enough for 1 or 2 month of expenses, before banks and ATMs begin to fail (shutting down businesses means many mortgages or rents aren't being paid and this increases pressure on banks). I hope they don't, but it's possible. Having some cash at home or in a safe place outside of a bank is always a smart thing to have.

Continue adding to your food storage. Supply chains that ought to be healthy are precarious. Many "non-essential" businesses may play a role in supply chains that our all-knowing politicians might overlook when they decide who can do what, and the result in the end can be trouble. Shutting flights down affects many shipments and can have unforeseen effects. Financial strains can shut some things down unexpectedly. Be prepared. And enjoy your next break in Hawaii with the party money coming your way!

Further reading:
"Singapore modelling study estimates impact of physical distancing on reducing spread of COVID-19" at ScienceDaily.com, discussing a new study published in The Lancet looking at Singapore's response and future options. Singapore has had just two deaths and has not chosen to implode its economy. May we learn from Singapore and Korea.

Coronavirus Deaths by Country

Sunday, March 15, 2020

President Nelson Gives a Message of Hope at This Troubled Time

As so many people struggle and worry with the craziness and uncertainty of COVID-19 and the Corona virus (SARS-CoV-2), it was a welcome relief to listen to President Nelson's thoughtful message of hope and optimism posted on the Church's Newsroom and also at Facebook. Having a respected medical doctor and Prophet of God share his optimism gave me a little more courage to go forward.

I especially appreciated his request to not just take care of ourselves and our loved ones, but to also "look for opportunities to help those around you near and far." There are so many things you can do. Here's one tip: for those of you who have prepared carefully and have adequate supplies, why not bring along something like toilet paper or other useful items for those you visit as ministering brothers or sisters, or for others you sense may have a need? Some people have traveled to many stores this week trying to get a roll or two, sometimes in vain. Imagine how much comfort a few extra supplies can bring in a time of such frustration.  Seek the Spirit and look for inspired ways to help the right person in the right way. What can be more joyous than that?

May we continue being cautious and preparing carefully for the possibility of trouble, while also seeking the Lord's guidance daily.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

COVID-19 Repsonse: Church Gatherings Suspended for Now, Worldwide

Today the Church announces that Church gatherings are temporarily suspended worldwide. China led the way in having members adapt to cancelled Church meetings, building swiftly on our experience with the Church's new emphasis on home-centered worship. Now we will all have the opportunity to worship and learn as families, individuals, or small groups without the structure we are used to.

Here is today's announcement from the Newsroom at ChurchofJesusChrist.org:





The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent the following letter March 12, 2020, to Church members worldwide. 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As promised in our letter of March 11, 2020, we continue to monitor the changing conditions related to COVID-19 throughout the world. We have considered the counsel of local Church leaders, government officials and medical professionals, and have sought the Lord’s guidance in these matters. We now provide the following updated directions.

Beginning immediately, all public gatherings of Church members are being temporarily suspended worldwide until further notice. This includes:
  • Stake conferences, leadership conferences and other large gatherings
  • All public worship services, including sacrament meetings
  • Branch, ward and stake activities
Where possible, please conduct any essential leadership meetings via technology. Specific questions may be referred to local priesthood leaders. Further direction related to other matters will be provided.

Bishops should counsel with their stake president to determine how to make the sacrament available to members at least once a month.

We encourage members in their ministering efforts to care for one another. We should follow the Savior’s example to bless and lift others.

We bear our witness of the Lord’s love during this time of uncertainty. He will bless you to find joy as you do your best to live the gospel of Jesus Christ in every circumstance.

Sincerely,

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
 
A reasonable call for reducing risk as the SARS-CoV-2 virus is spreading into many nations now creating panic and leading to sometimes draconian steps that can cause plenty of stress and pain on their own. 

Meanwhile, don't panic, but do prepare (some writers like Peggy Noonan may disagree with "don't panic," but I think vigorous, realistic preparation is what they may be calling for). Even if you (mistakenly) think this is no more serious than the ordinary flu, it has already begun to disrupt our society and our basic supply chains, many of which depend upon production in China (they are starting things up again, but it could be a slow process to get supply chains restored). When supply chains break down, markets and financial systems will be hurt. When capital flow and bank liquidity becomes strained, we could see the day when ATMs suddenly cease to work, when banks take a "bank holiday," and when many stores are shut down or have little to sell. What you see happening right now in the stores is not panic, it is preparation, which is a reasonable response (see "Panic? You Haven't Seen Anything Yet... " by Brandon Smith). Real panic is what happens to the unprepared when difficult scenarios they have ignored suddenly take place.
One important suggestion: now is the time to make sure you have a good supply of any essential medications you may need. Ditto for food, water, and some other supplies. If stores and pharmacies have to close for one or two months, are you ready? There's still time to take further steps to prepare.
Continue preparing -- something the U.S. has tragically failed to do when it comes to the most important resource for dealing with this virus, test kits. We should be testing thousands of people each day like Korea and China, but we are just doing small handfuls of testing due to blunders in preparation and some doctors report they can't get government permission to use test kits for people who they think may have the virus (see, for example, the related story at NPR.org). Can't we just admit the problem and ask Korea and China for some medical assistance?


Update, 3/13/2020: ScienceNews.org reports that based on examination of cases on the Princess Diamond cruise ship, the real mortality rate for the virus is probably around 0.6% on average (much higher for the elderly), making it deadlier than the flu but not nearly as frightening as the questionable 3% figure reported by the World Health Organization. This is consistent with the mortality rates being reported in South Korea based on vastly more extensive testing that we have seen in most other places.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Skip Church if You Are Ill and Other Tips for Coping with COVID-19 and the Corona Virus (SARS-CoV-2)

In my previous posts warning about the need to prepare for the Corona virus, my greatest concern has not been the risk of getting ill, but the risk of a society that panics over the virus. We've seen that in addition to the health impact, the personal, social, and economic impact of a vigorous military/police response to enforce widespread lockdowns can be terribly painful, and pray that China and other affected nations can recover quickly and open their communities up soon.

One reason why it is wise to have basic supplies of food, water, and sanitation supplies is not because the virus will wipe them out, but because panic and political reactions can strip shelves, shut down supply chains, and essentially imprison people in their own homes. China has taken efforts to provide access to food and basics to those who are locked down, but if we go to local lockdowns in the States, we may face all sorts of new challenges and pains along the way. Don't rely on questionable supply chains to take care of you in times of trouble Make gradual ongoing preparation a part of your lifestyle. Hopefully you've been doing that for a long time already.

South Korea has set a good example of how a pandemic can be controlled while maintaining the liberties that are fundamental in a Constitutional republic or democracy. In such a country, the government in theory should not have the power to shut down travel, lock people in their homes, and control who can do what. (To understand why from a perspective I find reasonable, see "What Would Murray [Rothbard] Say About the Coronavirus?") In the US and other nations facing the virus, one can already see some pundits, some government leaders, and other voices considering the possible "need" to step in and take away many basic rights in the name of a crisis, as so many of the world's politicians love to do (always to their benefit, it seems, and to the benefit of their friends as they pick the winners and losers in the massive redistribution of wealth and power that they may claim is needed to "fix" every new crisis). But South Korea seems to be taking a different course. Rather than running roughshod over personal liberty, they are providing means and incentives for widespread testing to quickly identify those who are infected so that they can self-quarantine and get early treatment. No need to haul citizens away or have armed guards threatening them if they try to leave their neighborhood or city.

Abundant testing has been a key in South Korea and seems to be working. See Bloomberg's "Virus Testing Blitz Appears to Keep Korea Death Rate Low," which attributes a low death rate to early treatment of cases identified by aggressive testing, but may overlook the simple mathematical effect of catching many more cases with which to divide the number of deaths, resulting in a lower death rate. Many mild cases go undetected, except in South Korea with its widespread testing. Also see "South Korea has tested 140,000 people for the coronavirus. That could explain why its death rate is just 0.6% — far lower than in China or the US" at BusinessInsider.com. [Update, 3/13/2020: ScienceNews.org reports that based on examination of cases on the Princess Diamond cruise ship, the real mortality rate for the virus is probably around 0.6% on average (much higher for the elderly), making it deadlier than the flu but not nearly as frightening as the questionable 3% figure reported by the World Health Organization. This is consistent with what we are seeing from South Korea.]

Because of wise preparation and actively working to allow companies to bring effective test kits to the market much faster than normal, South Korea has created an abundance of test kits. It's a shame the US did not follow suit and a shame that we did not seek South Korea's aid in importing test kits that could be used here, where testing has been grossly inadequate. I hope the US will reconsider the barriers that left the CDC and the nation in a poorly prepared state relative to test kits, but we can rightfully be proud of excellent healthcare facilities in the US. I look forward to the nation obtaining test kits and hope the number of tests we do relative to the need will not be such an embarrassment that the CDC has to take down the info on their website about the number of tests that have been conducted as it did on March 2. Regarding the trouble with the CDC's test kits in the US and our national poor preparation regarding test kits, please see the interview with a doctor and an FDA representative in the CNBC story, "New York City doctor says he has to ‘plead to test people’ for coronavirus." The doctor feels our lack of test kits is a national scandal and will exacerbate the problem. But the good news is that based on South Korea's data, the best data we have so far on the impact of the virus, the death rate may be only twice as bad or so as a regular flu. Panic is unwarranted, elimination of fundamental liberties is not needed, but preparation is still key.

Note that in the interview above, the death rate shown in South Korean data is said to be even lower than 0.6%, perhaps around 0.2%. More time may be needed to determine the real death rate. But this is much more encouraging than an early Lancet publication on the virus suggesting the mortality rate might be as high as 11%. South Korea's numbers have helped me realize the danger may be much lower than I feared.

Unfortunately, some panic may have been exacerbated by the alarming and now rather questionable numbers reported by the WHO, which claimed that the death rate was over 3%. Some suspicious folks have rudely alleged that since China was reporting a death rate of around 2%, WHO's claim may have been part of some plan to support China, implying that China's  medical care (such as amazing new hospitals in Wuhan which, in spite of some possible limitations in plumbing and privacy, are marvels to have been built in just a few days) and vigorous containment had resulted in a much lower death rate than normal. That's mere speculation and I can't comment on what the numbers in China are or may mean because I don't have any inside information there, but in any case it seems that the WHO's surprisingly high numbers for mortality may be questionable in light of what we see when ample testing is done. And perhaps China's mortality rates are actually even higher than they should be, contrary to unkind allegations that they are artificially low. Time will help clarify all these issues.

So what should we do? I'm not an expert, but here are some thoughts to consider. Do your own diligence. 

 

1. Don't panic.
Yes, the virus is more virulent than the flu and apparently more deadly, and we definitely need to prepare, but keep in mind that if we end up in a catastrophe with, say, 10 million Americans infected with a death rate of 0.4%, we could have 40,000 Americans die over the coming year or so, a tragic disaster slightly more severe than one year of automobile fatalities. (But it's possible that the numbers could be much worse -- or much better.) As far as I can tell, we have not locked down entire cities or states because of the risk of automobile deaths. We have not taken away their automobiles, banned travel between states or cities, forced people to stay in their homes instead of driving, or spent billions to redistribute wealth to those friends of politicians who are supposedly heavily impacted by the "automobile virus." Heavens knows I should not suggest that in jest because a lot of our leading politicians would just love to "solve" that problem in their quest for more power ("never let a crisis go to waste," as they say). But as serious as the Corona virus is, it is not the end of the world and we should not make it the end of the economy or our personal liberty. Sadly, it has been an economic disaster for the nation where I have been living the past 8+ years, but hope they can swiftly recover. I hope our response will not be so draconian.

May we learn from China, where much has been achieved as they struggle valiantly with the brunt of this disease, but let's not assume that we should repeat all aspects of their approach. There may be more appropriate ways for the U.S. and other nations with much different systems. May we also learn from South Korea and be better prepared for the next virus and get adequate kits in place for the current one, even if we might need to humbly ask China, Korea, or Canada for their help.

2. Increase your caution to reduce being infected or spreading infection. 
There is still much about this disease we don't know and there is not yet a vaccine nor high levels of immunity in the population, so this virus deserves more caution than an ordinary flu. Be much more cautious so that you don't become infected or spread the infection. A key factor according to every expert I've heard is that we need to wash our hands frequently and avoid touching our mouth, nose, and eyes where a virus can enter our body.

Here in quiet Wisconsin, with its lone case of COVID-19, face masks are generally sold out. Not just face masks, but also hand sanitizer. Gloves are nearly gone. Many cold and flu OTC medications such as zinc lozenges were sold out when I looked on Saturday. Anti-microbial soap was apparently out of stock at Walmart for a while but I was able to buy some yesterday since I arrived right as as few bottles had just come in. Who knows what would happen if the disease rate here triples next week and we suddenly have an alarming 3 cases??

There is a debate over face masks. Should you have some? The Surgeon General, per his recent Tweet, wants us ordinary people to stop buying them because they are "ineffective," and because healthcare professionals desperately need them. Maybe he's right. But some say how can something so ineffective be desperately needed? His point, I think, is that masks aren't very effective if worn improperly, but I am uncomfortable with the Surgeon General's statement. I wish he would have said something like, "they may not be very effective if worn improperly." As stated, it has the ring of misinformation, especially when one considers that the CDC's own website has a peer-reviewed article showing us that in households with an infected person, surgical masks can actually be effective in reducing transmission (if worn diligently) -- and that's exactly the scenario that motivates many of us to want face masks for our family. Not because we need to wear them on the street, as is required in many parts of China, but because we want to be prepared if someone we love becomes ill. See C. Raina MacIntyre et al.,  "Face Mask Use and Control of Respiratory Virus Transmission in Households," Emerging Infectious Diseases, Volume 15, Number 2 (February 2009). In their study of the transmission of influenza virus, they found that when masks are not strictly worn in dealing with sick family members, they were not effective -- no surprise there. But for those who adhered to sound procedures, they made a large difference:
We estimated that, irrespective of the assumed value for the incubation period (1 or 2 days), the relative reduction in the daily risk of acquiring a respiratory infection associated with adherent mask use (P2 or surgical) was in the range of 60%–80%. Those results are consistent with those of a simpler analysis in which persons were stratified according to adherence (Technical Appendix). We emphasize that this level of risk reduction is dependent on the context, namely, adults in the household caring for a sick child after exposure to a single index case. We urge caution in extrapolating our results to school, workplace, or community contexts, or where multiple, repeated exposures may occur, such as in healthcare settings. The exact mechanism of potential clinical effectiveness of face mask use may be the prevention of inhalation of respiratory pathogens but may also be a reduction in hand-to-face contact. Our study could not determine the relative contributions of these mechanisms. In this study, it is only possible to talk about a statistical association between adherent mask use and reduction in the risk of ILI-infection. The causal link cannot be demonstrated because adherence was not randomized in the trial. Although we found no significant difference in handwashing practices between adherent and non-adherent mask users, it is possible that adherent mask use is correlated with other, unobserved variables that reduce the risk of infection. Further work will therefore be needed to definitively demonstrate that adherent mask use reduces the risk of ILI-infection.
The mechanism is not certain, and it may be the value of the mask is in reducing the degree of hand-to-face contact. Contrary to this report, the Surgeon General and others have suggested that masks may actually make things worse by increasing hand-to-face contact, but I wonder of that argument really has any merit. Again, if someone is careless, then mask or no mask, they will have elevated risk. But I think it would be better to tell citizens how to use masks effectively in caring for an ill family members and to warn them to not touch their face if they are going to use masks, rather than to tell them to give up and not try masks at all. But I understand the desire to make them more available for healthcare professionals. But that's a supply chain problem that can be solved without questionable or incomplete information to control public behavior. Make more masks, get more into the hands of medical workers, but don't tell or force us to stop buying them. There are legitimate reasons for us to have them, whether it's protecting people from infection when a family member is ill or reducing the risk of spreading a disease when we are infectious.

There's also a debate about whether cheap surgical masks are truly inferior to the much more expensive and uncomfortable N95 respirators that are often worn by medical professionals. Again, I'm not an expert, so do your own research on this and all other topics raised here, but a major study just published in 2019 appears to resolve that debate, and the answer seems to be that there is no clear significant difference. See "Surgical masks as good as respirators for flu and respiratory virus protection" reported on Sept. 3, 2019 on the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center's newsroom regarding their major peer-reviewed study published in the nation's leading medical journal, JAMA. So if you wish to obtain a face mask or two, don't grossly overpay the gougers selling N95 masks. Better to grossly overpay the gougers a lot less for a relatively cheap mask. (Or wait for the glut when the panic subsides, if you choose.) Hats off to those who are already prepared with masks and willing to share with family and neighbors when they need them. (See my related post on the kind Vietnamese family whom I found giving away surgical masks to offset the harm or price gouging. What better form of charity than to graciously help others in times of shortage? We were so inspired by their goodness.)

As for hand sanitizer, which is in short supply and subject to ridiculous price gouging, look at alternatives. Soap and water is great for most needs, IMO. Hand sanitizer is often just rubbing alcohol or ethanol, and these fluids tend to still be available. So go to a drugstore or grocery store and buy a bottle of rubbing alcohol or other low-cost disinfectant. You can put some in a little bottle and carry it and use it before eating, etc.  (But I suggest you don't stockpile vodka. It's only 50% ethanol,n and might not be strong enough to kill many microbes, as I recall. And others might misunderstad.)

3. If you are sick, stay home if you can. Be sensitive about the risks of spreading whatever virus you might have. 
At Church in one of the units I've attended since returning to the States, a missionary threw up in the foyer. It was an ugly mess. I was one of the first to see this happen. My instinct was to run to the kitchen and grab a lot of paper towels and a wet cloth, and I quickly returned and helped in wiping up the mess on his shoes and the carpet, and gave him a glass of water as well. Then as others moved in to help, it hit me: since I'm without a home as a "medical refugee" of sorts from China, temporarily hanging out with some of my family now, including an expectant daughter-in-law, I can't afford to get sick and bring that missionary's illness home. I threw away what I had collected (most of the mess) and left the rest of clean up to the many others who gathered to help as I dashed to a bathroom to carefully wash up.

Unfortunately, I learned that the sick missionary had been sick all week. Hope it's nothing serious. I've been there and understand how young people can overdo it sometimes and might feel that they should just keep going, especially when they are trying hard to do their duty and are seeking to be faithful, but it perhaps it would be wiser to consider that the best way to advance the Gospel cause right now might be to not infect a large number of members and investigators. All of us may wish to carefully think about protecting others when we are ill.  I also hope mission presidents might consider this and urge their missionaries to stay home if there's a risk of being infectious with flu or something worse. That's just my opinion, of course. (BTW, I was pleased to see that the Church took missionaries out of Hong Kong when the virus looked threatening there and moved them elsewhere for their protection.)

On the other hand, if people stay home for every sniffle, very little work would get done in the world. But let's make a concerted effort not to infect others. For some, your little fever and cough could be a serious disease. Be cautious and think of how your illness might impact others. Think of the Hippocratic Oath that begins with, "First, do no harm."

4. Stay healthy. Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, and let your immune system be at its best. 
Help your family do the same. Veggies, fruit, grains, and not too much sugar or junk food. Be wise and also review the Word of Wisdom as well. And if you are smoking, this would be a great time to stop. The real danger of COVID-19 seems to be the pneumonia it can cause. Anything that damages your lungs already is a dangerous step in the wrong direction.

May you and your community fare well and avoid severe pain from COVID-19 or the reaction of others to the threat of the disease. Prepare now, not in panic, but in measured steps with a focus on basic hygiene as a key to reducing risk.

5. In case things get unexpectedly bad, have some sanitation and survival supplies, including toilet paper.
I hope the fuss over COVID-19 will soon be a faint memory, but there are many other risks in our future. It's best to be prepared for unexpected trouble with some basic supplies of food, water, clothing, and sanitation supplies. If you've seen what's been happening in the people's paradise of Venezuela, you'll note that the system of government there has not been conducive to private enterprise, which tends to result in great shortages. One of the dramatic images you may have seen are the crowds of people who leave Venezuela to buy basic supplies and then march back across the boarder carrying precious goods, the most recognizable of which is often toilet paper. It's something we tend to take for granted, but when commerce is crushed, it runs out quickly and if you've grown up with that, it's hard to get used to alternatives like bark or cactus. Surprisingly, at Walmart yesterday morning I noticed that the most popular brands of toilet paper were already sold out or in very short supply. I suggest you gradually build a supply of that item if it's something you care about.

Other suggestions for preparing for trouble? Do this calmly and gradually, and avoid paying ridiculously high prices to gougers just because there's a momentary shortage.

Update, 3/8/2020:
The reference to Murray Rothbard above is likely to trouble some who object to his skepticism about government as the solution for most of the problems in the world, when in many cases he saw the foolishness, greed, and corruption of government as part of the problem rather than a panacea. 

On a related note, after my previous and possibly misguided inquiry about the possible benefits of  glucosamine, based in part on a peer-reviewed study linking it to decreased mortality from pneumonia, one critic replied that we might as well ask if other random materials like aspirin could prevent the Corona virus. That suggestion actually brings us back to Rothbard's views. Here was my reply (slightly edited):
"We may as well be asking if aspirin can prevent coronavirus." Oh, so there's a peer-reviewed study linking aspirin intake to surviving respiratory disease? If not, then there's quite a difference.

In fact, aspirin was a cause of death for the Spanish flu, when the U.S. government, influenced by a big pharma company seeking to profit from the disease, made a terrible recommendation to take very high aspirin levels to treat the flu, levels that today are known to be well above the maximum safe limit. See the New York Times article, "In 1918 Pandemic, Another Possible Killer: Aspirin." In fact, one peer-reviewed study suggests that high aspirin intake, driven by the US government's irresponsible recommendation, may have been a major contributor to the high mortality rate in that dreadful pandemic. See Karen M. Starko, "Salicylates and Pandemic Influenza Mortality, 1918–1919: Pharmacology, Pathology, and Historic Evidence," Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 49, Issue 9 (15 November 2009): 1405–1410, DOE: doi.org/10.1086/606060.

Has the reliability of information from the US government become significantly greater over time? Or is it still improperly influenced by big money, sometimes to our detriment? Do your own diligence, but I don't think that we can always trust what government officials say.
When we talk about mortality of the Corona virus in any nation and the policies required to cope with such a crisis, it's fair to wonder if the actions and statements of various governments have been accurate, helpful, and made in good faith, or if they may, as Rothbard generally feared, have been influenced by big sources of money, the quest for power, or other inappropriate motives. Do some influential groups stand to profit from panic? Do any big companies stand to gain from the $8 billion Congress is dishing out to deal with the virus? Could the profit motive or personal benefit possibly influence what companies press politicians to do? Naw, not a chance, right?

Anyway, thanks for the reminder about aspirin,  mortality from influenza, and the helpful guidance we have received from the government in the past.

Update, 3/12/2020: Church meetings worldwide have now been suspended temporarily to reduce risks related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus (Corona virus) and COVID-19. See the announcement at the Newsroom at ChurchofJesusChrist.org and also on my March 12 post.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Power of Trust

What a blessing it is to have friends who are truly honest and trustworthy! Can you imagine what life would be like if we lived in a society where such integrity was universal, where we did not constantly need locks and guards to calm our fears?

This topic comes to mind because it was the power of trust among multiple friends and acquaintances in China that just helped us in a difficult spot. My wife and I came back to the US as "medical refugees" from China who realized, while on vacation in Vietnam in January, that we had better not go back to our home in Shanghai for now, or perhaps forever, due to the rise of the Corona virus, now known as SARS-CoV-2. There were so many things we would have packed when we went to Vietnam if we knew we might not ever set foot in our apartment again. Sadly, as I previously reported, I argued against repeated feelings that maybe I should bring more medication, my journal, and other items. I had very logical reasons for traveling light and not bringing along precious things to a country where crime was said to be higher than in China.

After we abandoned China, at least for now, I realized how wise it would have been to at least extract a handful of needed items, especially my journal. My wife had the same experience, recognizing that for the welfare of students in her school, she really should have brought along a stack of tests to grade that she felt she ought to bring along as we were packing, but then offered logical reasons why that wasn't needed (there would be plenty of time after we returned to grade the tests). But now we were away from home, perhaps permanently, and like most refugees of any kind, were seriously unprepared. I'll say, though, that we have been the luckiest refugees ever, able to come back to family in the US and live in relatively comfortable conditions in cold Wisconsin with the joyous distraction of many grandchildren. Still, I felt so foolish for not bringing my journal and some other needed items, and really felt a need to also obtain some key documents back home in our apartment (birth certificates, etc.).

Three Sundays ago (a fast Sunday) after fretting about some of the things we needed to recover, if possible, I awoke with a crazy idea: what if we our part-time maid could get a key to our apartment into the hands of someone who could enter our apartment, and what if we could then use video to show them what we needed, pack it in a suitcase, and then get that suitcase into the hands of someone flying from Shanghai to the U.S.? As my wife and I discussed that, it really seemed like a preposterous long shot: the maid was probably locked down outside of Shanghai, and even if we could get a key, people outside the complex are not allowed in, and while my wife had a trusted fellow teacher in the compound, he might not even be in Shanghai, and even if we could get a bag of things packed for us, we didn't know of any Americans still in Shanghai who were going to leave soon at that late stage when most who wanted to flee were already long gone. And even if we found somebody, how could we get the suitcase from whatever distant location they would fly to? Such a long shot, but still I felt we needed to try. So I posted a note among friends from Church on a WeChat group, asking if anyone in Shanghai was coming back to the States soon. After several hours, there was no reply. But then during sacrament meeting that day, I received a message from our Elder's quorum president stating that he, his wife, and their miracle baby were going to the US the next Sunday. And can you guess their destination? Wisconsin! Our state. But we would meet at the nearby Chicago airport and then they would be driven to their town in Wisconsin and begin a quarantine there.

I should mention their miracle baby, because that beautiful little girl is actually what made our little blessing possible. The faithful parents have wanted a baby for a long time, but multiple doctors in the States could do nothing for them. Finally, after many prayers, someone suggested to them that they consider traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) rather than Western medicine. TCM is way outside the comfort zone of most Americans and is widely frowned upon by Westerners, but seems to sometimes have some surprising benefits for some who try it. They went to a recommended TCM doctor for help and shortly thereafter, the couple were expecting and eventually delivered a beautiful, healthy, miracle baby. When the virus loomed over China, they would have returned to the States right away but were forced to wait until their baby's passport was ready for them. They made plans to leave as soon as possible after that, which most fortuitously aligned so perfectly with our minor need to extract some items from Shanghai.

With the surprising result that someone we knew and completely trusted with our stuff would be able to bring a small bag for us from Shanghai, we tackled other elements for this operation. Was that fellow teacher who lived in our complex in town and willing to help? Yes! Was the completely trustworthy woman who worked part-time as our maid back in town and able to bring the key to our complex to hand it across a barrier to the teacher who lived there? Yes! Could our landlord also join the teacher and take out some cash to pay some future rent and take possession of our key to help prepare for future needs like clearing out our stuff if needed? Yes. Could we arrange for a trusted driver to receive the bag of precious packed items and take it straight to our friends who would soon be flying to the U.S.? Yes. We also hired him to take that family to the airport. With his large SUV, there was just barely enough space for our three friends, all their bags, and our bag. But it fit!

As my wife's fellow teacher was in the apartment with our landlord packing stuff for us, I noted how amazing it was to know such good and trustworthy people. We had a stack of cash that we had the teacher find and hand to the landlord, who then counted out her share of it for rent. We were able to do that without the slightest concern because we completely trust both of these good people, one a Westerner and one a local Chinese woman who feels like a relative to us, the best landlord I've even had in my life, who regularly brings us delicious food, tickets to musicals, and treats us with so much fairness and kindness that we really don't mind overpaying for our apartment.  We just love that woman and dare to trust her with all our possessions now that she has our key. How many problems can be solved, how much good can take place, when there is true trust between people!

It was great to have an excuse to go to Chicago, where we stayed with a sister that we really needed to visit. Wonderful to interact with her and her son and daughter. And so wonderful to be able to drive to the airport early the next morning and meet our trusted friends. So wonderful to see them and their miracle baby. We were wearing masks at the airport and carefully disinfected the bag just in case someone with the virus had handled it, not wanting to risk spreading the virus to our family and community.

That's my little story on the power and blessings of trust. For those who are in similar circumstances, there may be ways to have friends help you reduce some of the impact of a sudden departure from China or anywhere else.

To some of the critics who take offense whenever someone believes that they been blessed in some temporal way that is not uniformly distributed, I can understand the frustration, but be careful about the assumptions you make. 

Was this a blessing to us? A small miracle? To those who are instantly offended by such things, I will confess with some trepidation: Yes, so it seems to me, and I can't explain or justify why we were able to escape from difficult circumstances and, in spite of being unexpected refugees, avoid much of the pain of suddenly fleeing home. Random luck? Yes, possibly, but I prefer being grateful for too much than for too little. I prefer counting my blessings, and perhaps overcounting, rather than ignoring them altogether. And I prefer to overlook my grievances and losses when I can rather than to be angry at God or ignore His mercy even in the midst of my most painful trials. 

Should I not dare to be grateful and note that we were blessed in this matter by the kindness and trustworthiness of good friends? But sure, you can call that callous and insensitive when I know that others, in spite of their good friends, are smitten with disease or trapped in harsh conditions in locked-down cities filled with sorrow, or when others I know are suffering grievously due to health, being in jail, or other great trials? We have tried to help some others in such circumstances, but often we are helpless.

On this matter, may I suggest reading an old post of mine, "Do Big Tragedies Negate Small Miracles?"

For those who are offended by the diversity in the temporal conditions of individuals here on earth, and by God's apparent willingness to allow such diversity, I would suggest that nothing in the scriptures suggest that God's goal is to enforce uniformity on earth, in spite of His desire that we lift the poor and share our abundance, and that we seek to nourish the week and heal the sick. There is uniformity in that we will all die, but great diversity in terms of when and how. There is diversity on our talents, our places of birth, our cultures and languages, our financial status, our genes, our health, and so forth. Diversity is magnified by the terrible gift that God gives rather uniformly: the gift of moral agency, of being able to choose or reject Him, to be kind to others or malicious, to pursue peace or war. The results of that agency can be blood and horror or peace and joy for those whose lives we affect. But whether God calls us to live and serve in the midst of war or in a peaceful small town, in the midst of plague or in a healthy community, with rotten neighbors or with trusted friends (such as the world's greatest landlord living almost next door), there are some things that are uniform and universal: His love for us, His perfect Atonement completed for us at an infinite price, and His offer of grace to each of us, making it possible for us to overcome all barriers and all the diverse pain of mortality and return to endless joy in His presence.

Nephi described this situation well in 2 Nephi 26:
[24] He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.
[25] Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.
[26] Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.
[27] Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.
[28] Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.
[29] He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.
[30] Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love, and except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.
[31] But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.
[32] And again, the Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal; that they should not take the name of the Lord their God in vain; that they should not envy; that they should not have malice; that they should not contend one with another; that they should not commit whoredoms; and that they should do none of these things; for whoso doeth them shall perish.
[33] For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.
All are alike unto God. I love that passage. All will have an opportunity to accept Him. All will be judged fairly. He does not deny any who wish to come unto Him, but invites all to receive His greatest blessings. Death is not the end nor the greatest tragedy, but an essential part of our individual and diverse journeys. Don't be offended that others escaped your current trials or face different challenges. Don't be deceived by those who say that God must not love you and must not even exist because of what you or others may be suffering. Christ has suffered all that and more for you and knows your pains, and is there to wipe away all tears in the end and take you forward to victory and joy, to resurrection and eternal life. There is painful diversity now, as there must be in this time of mortal probation, but there is God's love for all of us in whatever place we are. He may not choose to take away all current problems, and may say no a request that He miraculously grants to others for some reason (always seemingly unjust to us), but He gives us strength to endure and sometimes can give us kind help to move forward to be where we need to be for the next phase of each individual trek.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Requesting Review from Medical Experts: Can Glucosamine Help Reduce COVID-19 Mortality?

Update, 2/29/2019: In light of helpful and competent feedback to me privately about the problems in the proposed mechanisms for the hypotheses examined here and about the weaknesses in some of the studies mentioned (e.g., lack of real clinical data), there is no compelling reason to believe that dietary factors have a clear effect on the mortality of COVID-19, or that glucosamine can reduce pneumonia mortality, though it may be possible. Given that some non-clinical published studies point to positive effects of glucosamine in lung-related matters, there may be a valid need for further research on the topic, but no need to insist that glucosamine should be shipped to China or to claim that significant dietary changes will have a strong impact. There's still the possibility that it might help in treating pneumonia from SARS-CoV-2, but large question marks remain, especially regarding proposals that certain foods and drinks may impact mortality.

For those interested in exploring the currently speculative role of glucosamine in lung health, the original post below will remain in place, but recognize that serious question marks remain in place about the proposal discussed therein.


Illustration of a SARS-CoV-2 virion,
courtesy of the CDC.
In response to recent posts about the impact of the Corona virus, now known as SARS-CoV-2 and its disease, COVID-19, on China and the Church (especially my branch and district in Shanghai), I was pleased to be contacted by one of my readers, C.T., who shared tentative findings from her investigation of  factors that may affect how severe pneumonia can become in once healthy patients. She posted some information on this blog, leading to the some of the pointed criticism that is normally reserved for me. She has not granted permission to use her name, but given the hostility she encountered from trolls when she posted her work originally on her own blog, I can understand a desire to remain anonymous. But I find her proposal interesting enough and, if correct, potentially valuable enough that I'd like to invite feedback from competent experts to see if there is any merit and if further work is warranted. If C.T.'s work could help alleviate some of the suffering that COVID-19 is causing, and specifically decrease the mortality rate, that would be fantastic. Or, like much of the output of creative thinkers and researchers, maybe it's just an interesting idea that in the end won't prove to be fruitful. Let's see.

In presenting some tentative possibilities below, please note that I am not making any medical claims or suggesting that nutrition or nutritional supplements can directly reduce the risk of dying from COVID-19 or pneumonia in general. I am not seeking to spread rumors about the disease (spreading rumors is strictly illegal in China, especially rumors or incorrect information about sensitive issues such as COVID-19 and its management, and as one who loves so much about China and its people, and still has an apartment there, I strive to abide by the regulations), but am inviting experts to review a tentative possibility that could be helpful to China and other nations. I also have no financial interest in this matter (apart from having an apartment and other things China made much less accessible by the severity of COVID-19, all of relatively minor importance to me). 

C.T.'s hypothesis involves the possible role of glucosamine and other aspects of nutrition in reducing the risk of severe pneumonia. Glucosamine is a natural material found in cartilage and in the shells of shrimp, crabs, etc. and the skeletons of marine animals. Perhaps offering an especially practical opportunity for China, it is also present in China's abundant and delicious mushrooms and other fungi (see "Dietary Sources" below). It is an antioxidant that our body can produce, though it is also commonly sold as a dietary supplement said to help treat osteoarthritis and reduce pain in joints (see an overview of reports on glucosamine at ScienceDirect). In what follows, I'll add some comments to C.T.'s points and  mix a few finds from my searching with some of the things she has found.

The relationship between glucosamine and cartilage health has a reasonable basis (though for relieving pain, as the BBC reports, it's not clear that glucosamine supplements actually do more than a good, full-strength placebo), and cartilage is present in several vital parts of the lungs, from the trachea through the bronchi. C.T.'s hypothesis is that viral disease may infect chondrocytes, cells that product cartilage, and that our own immune system in response may then attack those cells and lead to tissue damage that allows naturally present bacteria to cause severe infection. But could there be a relationship between glucosamine and pneumonia mortality? C.T. proposes a mechanism involving the SOX-9 protein and its role in driving a "cytokine storm" where dangerous cycles can lead to severe illness. She argues that dietary influences that inhibit or enhance the effect of SOX-9 (i.e., down regulate or up regulate) may help explain significant differences in pneumonia mortality among nations, with tea and perhaps pomegranate juice being likely to up regulate SOX-9 while diets high in shrimp and cartilage may provide the glucosamine that can may regulate SOX-9.  You can see her recent comments on the Coronavirus and the crisis in Wuhan in her post of Jan. 31, 2020, "My two bits about the novel coronavirus from Wuhan," which points to her earlier post with the key information she wishes to share. [Update, 2/28/2020: Shortly after I posted this information, the links to her blog and to her YouTube video below went dead. I have since learned that she has taken down that information today. I am puzzled about why and recognize that it raises troubling questions when a researcher doesn't want to be associated with their work. I don't know her reasons, but perhaps it is a privacy issue related to the harsh treatment she received when she originally posted her tentative findings.]

Whether or not C.T.'s proposed mechanisms and dietary considerations are correct, there are peer-reviewed studies suggesting that glucosamine may help reduce mortality from respiratory illness. If so, that could be helpful information for afflicted people.

The scientific literature on glucosamine tends to focus on its role in cartilage formation and in alleviating problems with joints and bones. But there are some surprising finds related to other effects. Here are a few to consider (the first and fourth were pointed out by C.T. in her original work):

1. Griffith A. Bell et al., "Use of glucosamine and chondroitin in relation to mortality," European Journal of Epidemiology, 27/8 (2012): 593-603; https://www.jstor.org/stable/23272500.

Abstract: Glucosamine and chondroitin are products commonly used by older adults in the US and Europe. There is limited evidence that they have anti-inflammatory properties, which could provide risk reduction of several diseases. However, data on their long-term health effects is lacking. To evaluate whether use of glucosamine and chondroitin are associated with cause-specific and total mortality. Participants (n = 77,510) were members of a cohort study of Washington State (US) residents aged 50-76 years who entered the cohort in 2000-2002 by completing a baseline questionnaire that included questions on glucosamine and chondroitin use. Participants were followed for mortality through 2008 (n = 5,362 deaths). Hazard ratios (HR) for death adjusted for multiple covariates were estimated using Cox models. Current (baseline) glucosamine and chondroitin use were associated with a decreased risk of total mortality compared to never use. The adjusted HR associated with current use of glucosamine (with or without chondroitin) was 0.82 (95 % CI 0.75-0.90) and 0.86 (95 % CI 0.78-0.96) for chondroitin (included in two-thirds of glucosamine supplements). Current use of glucosamine was associated with a significant decreased risk of death from cancer (HR 0.87 95 % CI 0.76-0.98) and with a large risk reduction for death from respiratory diseases (HR 0.59 95 % CI 0.41-0.83). Use of glucosamine with or without chondroitin was associated with reduced total mortality and with reductions of several broad causes of death. Although bias cannot be ruled out, these results suggest that glucosamine may provide some mortality benefit. [Emphasis added. For links to references cited by Bell et al., see the Springer page for this article.]


2. Kun-Han Chuang et al., "Attenuation of LPS-induced Lung Inflammation by Glucosamine in Rats," American Journal of Respiratory Cellular Molelcular Biology, 49/6 (Dec. 2013): 1110-9.

Abstract: Acute inflammation is often observed during acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Glucosamine is known to act as an anti-inflammatory molecule. The effects of glucosamine on acute lung inflammation and its associated mechanisms remain unclear. The present study sought to address how glucosamine plays an anti-inflammatory role in acute lung inflammation in vivo and in vitro. Using the LPS intratracheal instillation-elicited rat lung inflammation model, we found that glucosamine attenuated pulmonary edema and polymorphonuclear leukocyte infiltration, as well as the production of TNF-α, IL-1β, cytokine-induced neutrophil chemoattractant (CINC)-1, macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-2, and nitric oxide (NO) in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) and in the cultured medium of BALF cells. The expression of TNF-α, IL-1β, IFN-γ, CINC-1, MIP-2, monocyte chemotactic protein-1, and inducible NO synthase (iNOS) in LPS-inflamed lung tissue was also suppressed by glucosamine. Using the rat alveolar epithelial cell line L2, we noted that the cytokine mixture (cytomix)-regulated production and mRNA expression of CINC-1 and MIP-2, NO production, the protein and mRNA expression of iNOS, iNOS mRNA stability, and iNOS promoter activity were all inhibited by glucosamine. Furthermore, glucosamine reduced LPS-mediated NF-κB signaling by decreasing IκB phosphorylation, p65 nuclear translocation, and NF-κB reporter activity. Overexpression of the p65 subunit restored the inhibitory action of glucosamine on cytomix-regulated NO production and iNOS expression. In conclusion, glucosamine appears to act as an anti-inflammatory molecule in LPS-induced lung inflammation, at least in part by targeting the NF-κB signaling pathway.


3. Yuh-Lin Wu et al., "Glucosamine Attenuates Cigarette Smoke-Induced Lung Inflammation by Inhibiting ROS-sensitive Inflammatory Signaling," Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 69 (April 2014): 208-18; DOI: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2014.01.026.

Abstract
Cigarette smoking causes persistent lung inflammation that is mainly regulated by redox-sensitive pathways. We have reported that cigarette smoke (CS) activates a NADPH oxidase-dependent reactive oxygen species (ROS)-sensitive AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signaling pathway leading to induction of lung inflammation. Glucosamine, a dietary supplement used to treat osteoarthritis, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. However, whether glucosamine has similar beneficial effects against CS-induced lung inflammation remains unclear. Using a murine model we show that chronic CS exposure for 4 weeks increased lung levels of 4-hydroxynonenal (an oxidative stress biomarker), phospho-AMPK, and macrophage inflammatory protein 2 and induced lung inflammation; all of these CS-induced events were suppressed by chronic treatment with glucosamine. Using human bronchial epithelial cells, we demonstrate that cigarette smoke extract (CSE) sequentially activated NADPH oxidase; increased intracellular levels of ROS; activated AMPK, mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB), and signal transducer and activator of transcription proteins 3 (STAT3); and induced interleukin-8 (IL-8). Additionally, using a ROS scavenger, a siRNA that targets AMPK, and various pharmacological inhibitors, we identified the signaling cascade that leads to induction of IL-8 by CSE. All these CSE-induced events were inhibited by glucosamine pretreatment. Our findings suggest a novel role for glucosamine in alleviating the oxidative stress and lung inflammation induced by chronic CS exposure in vivo and in suppressing the CSE-induced IL-8 in vitro by inhibiting both the ROS-sensitive NADPH oxidase/AMPK/MAPK signaling pathway and the downstream transcriptional factors NF-κB and STAT3.


4. Jean-Noël Gouze et al., "Exogenous glucosamine globally protects chondrocytes from the arthritogenic effects of IL-1β," Arthritis Research and Therapy,  8 (2006), article #R173; https://doi.org/10.1186/ar2082. (PDF also available.)

Abstract
The effects of exogenous glucosamine on the biology of articular chondrocytes were determined by examining global transcription patterns under normal culture conditions and following challenge with IL-1β. Chondrocytes isolated from the cartilage of rats were cultured in several flasks either alone or in the presence of 20 mM glucosamine. Six hours later, one-half of the cultures of each group were challenged with 10 ng/ml IL-1β. Fourteen hours after this challenge, RNA was extracted from each culture individually and used to probe microarray chips corresponding to the entire rat genome. Glucosamine alone had no observable stimulatory effect on the transcription of primary cartilage matrix genes, such as aggrecan, collagen type II, or genes involved in glycosaminoglycan synthesis; however, glucosamine proved to be a potent, broad-spectrum inhibitor of IL-1β. Of the 2,813 genes whose transcription was altered by IL-1β stimulation (P > 0.0001), glucosamine significantly blocked the response in 2,055 (~73%). Glucosamine fully protected the chondrocytes from IL-1-induced expression of inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors as well as proteins involved in prostaglandin E2 and nitric oxide synthesis. It also blocked the IL-1-induced expression of matrix-specific proteases such as MMP-3, MMP-9, MMP-10, MMP-12, and ADAMTS-1. The concentrations of IL-1 and glucosamine used in these assays were supraphysiological and were not representative of the arthritic joint following oral consumption of glucosamine. They suggest, however, that the potential benefit of glucosamine in osteoarthritis is not related to cartilage matrix biosynthesis, but is more probably related to its ability to globally inhibit the deleterious effects of IL-1β signaling. These results suggest that glucosamine, if administered effectively, may indeed have anti-arthritic properties, but primarily as an anti-inflammatory agent.


5.  Ji-Sun Hwang et al.,  "Glucosamine Improves Survival in a Mouse Model of Sepsis and Attenuates Sepsis-Induced Lung Injury and Inflammation," Journal of Biological Chemistry, 294/2 (Jan. 11, 2019): 608-622; DOI: 10.1074/jbc.RA118.004638.

Abstract  
The aim of the current study was to investigate the effects of glucosamine (GlcN) on septic lethality and sepsis-induced inflammation using animal models of mice and zebrafish. GlcN pretreatment improved survival in the cecal ligation and puncture (CLP)-induced sepsis mouse model and attenuated lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced septic lung injury and systemic inflammation. GlcN suppressed LPS-induced M1-specific but not M2-specific gene expression. Furthermore, increased expressions of inflammatory genes in visceral tissue of LPS-injected zebrafish were suppressed by GlcN. GlcN suppressed LPS-induced activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and NF-κB in lung tissue. LPS triggered a reduction in O-GlcNAc levels in nucleocytoplasmic proteins of lung, liver, and spleen after 1 day, which returned to normal levels at day 3. GlcN inhibited LPS-induced O-GlcNAc down-regulation in mouse lung and visceral tissue of zebrafish. Furthermore, the O-GlcNAcase (OGA) level was increased by LPS, which were suppressed by GlcN in mouse and zebrafish. OGA inhibitors suppressed LPS-induced expression of inflammatory genes in RAW264.7 cells and the visceral tissue of zebrafish. Stable knockdown of Oga via short hairpin RNA led to increased inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression in response to LPS with or without GlcN in RAW264.7 cells. Overall, our results demonstrate a protective effect of GlcN on sepsis potentially through modulation of O-GlcNAcylation of nucleocytoplasmic proteins.


In light of these studies, especially the first one, there seems to be some reason to believe that glucosamine may be helpful in reducing the mortality of pneumonia. If so, and that's still a definite "if" demanding further research and review, being prepared to have a diet with some glucosamine sources or to have some glucosamine on hand might be reasonable should COVID-19 become a serious threat in your community, or if you are traveling under conditions where you may be exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Your intelligent feedback on this is welcome -- but anonymous trolling comments that I too often tolerate will be deleted here in order to increase the chance of readers finding intelligent comments that help us better understand the issues raised here.

C.T.'s Proposals on Mechanism and Diet
C.T. posted the following note on my blog a couple days ago:
Hi, Jeff, I know it sounds presumptuous, but I think I figured out which environmental triggers are involved in making it so people exposed to this virus do/do not become symptomatic and how severe the symptoms are.

1) Damage to the hyaline cartilage (by the immune system targeting infected cartilage cells) is much less likely to happen where the diet contains glucosamine (in shrimp paste and cartilage), where there is no exposure to dry and cold air, and where there is not bleach being sprayed in the air (seriously, have Hubei's bureaucrats never heard of chemical pneumonia?).

2) The cartilage cells, if damaged, think they have to rebuild the hyaline cartilage matrix and so secrete chondroitin sulphate and other cartilage matrix molecules; the gene SOX9 is very instrumental in doing this, but if it is overly active it can cause there to be too many such molecules building up in the lungs. Voila! Viral pneumonia. What gets SOX9 going? EGCG appears to "stimulate exuberant cartilage matrix secretion" (see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4247298/), and EGCG is THE special molecule in tea leaves. What did the poor people of Wuhan ingest in their apartment quarantines: rice, veggies, legumes, and tea--no meat or shrimp. What else affects SOX9? Turmeric (curcumin decreases SOX9 activity--lucky Thailand), Fluoride (also helps decrease SOX9 activity--lucky India), Pomegranate (increases SOX9--unlucky Iran, where they drink pomegranate juice when sick). This hypothesis holds up even in Italy, where they drink wine and coffee all the time except when they're trying to lose weight or fight a cold--then they drink green tea. And it utterly refutes all the stupid internet trolls who were going on and on about how "Chinese people have horrible hygiene."

Doctrine & Covenants 89 is a beautiful piece of counsel for our times. 
C.T.'s original post on the relationship between glucosamine and mortality in pneumonia and the possible mechanisms involved is "Glucosamine to protect cartilage during influenza infection," Petticoat Government, Feb. 5, 2018. (Sadly, her blog and her YouTube video were taken down the day this was posted, as noted above.) Here is an excerpt with the key arguments she makes:
1) The flu infects chondrocytes, the cells in cartilage. They are the only cells in hyaline cartilage, which type of cartilage is coincidentally found in places--joints, rib ends, nose, larynx, trachea, bronchi--that are among the hardest hit by influenza. (https://www.britannica.com/science/cartilage)

2) Influenza-infected chondrocytes don't seem to actually experience obvious damage until the body's immune system goes on the attack. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC422866/; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2567.2003.01621.x/full) [Edited 2/17/2018: Someone pointed out to me that chondrocytes are within an extracellular matrix that has no blood vessels, so other cells, including attacking immune cells, can't reach them. I looked more into that issue and found a 2015 cartilage transplant study which found that cartilage isn't as immune-privileged as it used to be believed it was (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4522233/). I suspect that chondroblasts--the immature chondrocytes next to the blood-vessel-containing perichondrium--are the first chondrocytes which the immune system cells attack, and then due to their destruction the cartilage matrix becomes compromised; if that compromised state becomes severe enough, immune cells can then gain access to the mature chondrocytes within, as well.]

3) Cytokines are part of the immune system's attack arsenal. The cytokine IL-1beta is a critical component of lung inflammation during infection with influenza type A H1N1. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jmv.24138/abstracthttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27714503)

4) Glucosamine--a natural compound found in cartilage--happens to protect chondrocytes by being a potent inhibitor of IL-1beta. (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/ar2082)

5) Damaged cartilage in the trachea/bronchi could allow for more penetrating infection by viruses/bacteria that normally would not be able to do much harm and in that way make flu sufferers much more susceptible to pneumonia. Most of the people who died from the 1918 flu died because "bacteria that normally inhabit the nose and throat invaded the lungs along a pathway created when the virus destroyed the cells that line the bronchial tubes and lungs." (https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/bacterial-pneumonia-caused-most-deaths-1918-influenza-pandemic)

6) People who take glucosamine (it's a common supplement for arthritis) are much less likely to die of respiratory illnesses than their peers. (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10654-012-9714-6)

So if you're worried about influenza, it might be worth it to buy some glucosamine and take it when you're exposed to influenza so you can protect your hyaline cartilage and thus make yourself less likely to develop pneumonia....

Eat well cooked, or non-manufactured source- glucosamine rich foods (like shrimp) to help the cartilage stay strong, and stay away from tea plant and pomegranate for a second. (Pomegranates are healthy, but are rich in natural SOX9 stimulants... Which is good... But on a viral, over-production level ((what happens with this virus)) you get to much in the lungs too fast, and therefore pneumonia.)
There is also a related video on YouTube made before COVID-19 came along. [Update: Sadly, this was taken down, with her blog, shortly after this post. Sorry!]

By the way, I have worked with nearly pure EGCG as part of my consumer products research work in the past and was often surprised by how reactive it is. Dissolve a little white EGCG in water and combine with baking soda or other alkaline material and find out what strange, ugly stains you can create on materials such as tissue paper or fabrics after allowing it to sit for a few hours. It has many effects in the body, some clearly positive, but I can imagine that there are situations where this reactive material isn't helpful. Can it play the role that C.T. suggests? I don't know, but would like to learn more. Is it possible that giving tea to the ill might not be a good idea? I don't know, but it may not be helping in Wuhan, though so much of what's happening there remains opaque. If you have additional useful information, please let me know.

Dietary Sources
C.T. points to shrimp as an important dietary source of glucosamine. I should add that it appears that the glucosamine of shrimp comes from the shell, not the flesh. In Asia, many people eat the shells, or so it seems to me, especially small shrimp where the shell is quite thin and, in fried shrimp, can be tasty and easy to eat. She also mentions gristle, which is commonly consumed, especially chicken gristle. Another source may be soups in which the bones of animals have been stewed for a long period of time. Bone-rich soup, at least in China, especially when stewed long enough to create a white broth, is widely held to be very nutritious and ideal for those who are ill, and probably supplies some glucosamine. I find it delicious, too.

There are also options for vegetarians. Mushrooms contain chitin, the widespread natural polymer found in the shells of shrimp, crabs, insects, etc., and glucosamine is one of the building blocks of chitin and I believe it can be released when digested. See Tao Wu et al., "Chitin and Chitosan--Value-Added Products From Mushroom Waste," Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, 52 /26 (Dec. 29, 2004): 7905-10;  DOI: 10.1021/jf0492565. Also see Pin Zhang et al., "Kinetic Models for Glucosamine Production by Acid Hydrolysis of Chitin in Five Mushrooms," International Journal of Chemical Engineering, 2020, article ID 5084036 (2020); https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/5084036.

Unfortunately, for those in Wuhan, there are reports that the diet is now necessarily simple and thus there may be less meat (bone and cartilage included) and less shrimp than usual, so the protective effects of glucosamine, if real, may be less available than normal. C.T. worries that the combination of cold, stress, and confinement, coupled with a low-glucosamine and high-tea diet and even the occasional exposure to bleach or other harsh chemicals in the effort to kill the virus in many places might make a perfect storm for elevated pneumonia risk for those infected with the virus. If C.T.'s proposal is correct, then bringing glucosamine or glucosamine-rich foods to Wuhan and other affected areas may be a helpful step to help reduce loss of life.

One of China's great blessings when it comes to food is the richness of its fungi, with numerous wild and domesticated mushrooms and other fungi that are so delicious. Some are far too expensive for me, but there are many varieties that are relatively inexpensive but very nutritious, especially the black wood ear fungus called mu er (literally wood ear). It's more expensive than rice or common vegetables like carrots, onions, or cabbage, but it's still quite cheap and has also been touted for its immune strengthening benefits. I order some much of the time when I'm in Chinese restaurants in China. Perhaps adding this to the diet of the people in Wuhan and other afflicted cities could help?

Is Glucosamine Safe for Those Allergic to Shrimp?
Finally, one important issue is whether those with seafood allergies, including shellfish allergies, should take glucosamine since it is often made from the shells of shrimp. Please consult with your physician and don't take crazy risks based on random bloggers. However, something to consider as you discuss such matters with competent medical authorities is that several studies suggest that commercially available high-quality glucosamine may not contain the allergens that are harmful to some people. Here are a couple studies to consider:

J. Villacis et al.,  "Do Shrimp-Allergic Individuals Tolerate Shrimp-Derived Glucosamine?,"  Clinical and Experimental Allergy, 36/11 (Nov. 2006): 1457-61;  DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2006.02590.x.
Abstract

Background: There is concern that shrimp-allergic individuals may react to glucosamine-containing products as shrimp shells are a major source of glucosamine used for human consumption.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether shrimp-allergic individuals can tolerate therapeutic doses of glucosamine.

Methods: Subjects with a history of shrimp allergy were recruited and tested for both shrimp reactivity via a prick skin test and shrimp-specific IgE by an ImmunoCAP assay. Fifteen subjects with positive skin tests to shrimp and an ImmunoCAP class level of two or greater were selected for a double-blind placebo-controlled food challenge (DBPCFC) using glucosamine-chondroitin tablets containing 1,500 mg of synthetically produced (control) or shrimp-derived glucosamine. Immediate reactions, including changes in peak flow and blood pressure, and delayed reactions (up to 24 h post-challenge) via questionnaire were noted and assessed.

Results: All subjects tolerated 1,500 mg of both shrimp-derived or synthetic glucosamine without incident of an immediate hypersensitivity response. Peak flows and blood pressures remained constant, and no subject had symptoms of a delayed reaction 24 h later.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates that glucosamine supplements from specific manufacturers do not contain clinically relevant levels of shrimp allergen and therefore appear to pose no threat to shrimp-allergic individuals.
Heather C. Gray, et al., "Is glucosamine safe in patients with seafood allergy?," Jounral of Allergy and Clinical Immunology,  114/2 (August 2004) 459–460; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2004.05.050 (PDF also available).
Excerpt:
Six subjects participated in the study. All 6 had a history consistent with a systemic reaction to shellfish. All 6 had positive skin prick test responses to shrimp, crab, lobster, or a combination of these. All 6 had negative skin test responses to the glucosamine extract (Table I) and uneventful oral challenges with glucosamine, with no change in skin, vital signs, or spirometry....

Approximately 600 patients must be recruited to ensure that the chance of rejecting an allergy rate of at least 0.5% is less than 0.05. This pilot study, which indicates that glucosamine is probably safe for patients with shellfish allergy, emphasizes the need for further investigation, with larger studies looking at different shellfish allergens and the consistency of glucosamine formulations.
Further research is needed on this issue and others raised above. If you have other information on the food safety issue or other issues raised here, please share. Thanks!

I welcome your feedback, but I will be deleting more anonymous trolling comments than I normally do because I would like the comments to be helpful. But to save the usual trolls the trouble, let me just jump the gun and recognize that yes, I am not trained in medicine or the life sciences and, as usual, am daring to offer thoughts that are amateur and worthy of ridicule. Ridiculous, absurd, idiotic, and a blight on humanity. There, done! Your non-anonymous criticisms are welcome, though, if they contribute to the quest to understand what measures we can take to reduce the mortality of COVID-19 or to help people prepare for the risks it may bring.

Other Related Resources:


Theodore M. Brasky, "Use of Glucosamine and Chondroitin and Lung Cancer Risk in the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) Cohort," Cancer Causes and Control, 22/9 (Sept. 2011): 1333-42. See also Theodore M. Brasky et al., "Long-term use of glucosamine and chondroitin and lung cancer risk in the vitamins and lifestyle (VITAL) cohort," Cancer Research, 71/8 (April 2011), DOI: 10.1158/1538-7445.AM2011-1912.

Jody Braverman, "Nutritional Value of Bone Gristle," LiveStrong.com, September 30, 2019.

"Glucosamine sulfate," WebMD,  https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-807/glucosamine-sulfate. (Information on possible benefits, risks, interactions with other drugs, etc.)

Hao Ma et al., "Association of habitual glucosamine use with risk of cardiovascular disease: prospective study in UK Biobank," BMJ 365 (May 14, 2019); DOI: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l1628. (Potential benefits in preventing cardiovascular disease.)

Robert H. Shmerling, "The latest on glucosamine/chondroitin supplements," Harvard Health Blog, Oct. 17, 2016.

"Too much glucosamine can cause the death of pancreatic cells, increase diabetes risk, researchers find,"  ScienceDaily.com, October 27, 2010.

L.H. Toledo-Pereyra et al., "Lung Transplantation: Better Survival Results After Graft Pretreatment With Concanavalin A or Chondroitin Sulfate," Annals of Thoracic Surgery, 29/3 (March 1980): 209-16; DOI: 10.1016/s0003-4975(10)61869-3.


Update A, 2/28/2020: There's one study C.T. mentioned suggesting that chondroitin, which is often combined with glucosamine in supplements, can cause pneumonia rather than prevent it, based on a single patient. See Takeshi Satomura et al., "A Case of Drug-induced Pulmonary Disease Considered to be Caused by a Supplement Containing Chondroitin," The Journal of the Japan Society for Respiratory Endoscopy,  37/2 (2015): 214-18; DOI https://doi.org/10.18907/jjsre.37.2_214.
Abstract 
Drug-induced pulmonary disease can be caused by a variety of drugs including supplements. We examined a case of drug-induced organizing pneumonia induced by a supplement containing chondroitin. Case. An 80-year-old man had been taking supplements for knee pain since early July 2013 and subsequently developed a cough and fever. A chest radiograph demonstrated infiltrative shadows, and he was admitted to our hospital. His condition did not improved with antibiotic treatment and bronchoscopy was performed for diagnostic purposes. A transbronchial lung biopsy specimen showed organizing pneumonia, and the patient's condition was ameliorated with steroid therapy. We established a diagnosis of drug-induced pulmonary disease based on the results of a lymphocyte stimulation test for a supplement containing chondroitin. Conclusions. We conclude that the use of supplements containing chondroitin may result in drug-induced pulmonary disease.  
That single case may not be meaningful, but if you're concerned and want more glucosamine after consulting with medical personnel, you can just use glucosamine alone or a diet with glucosamine. Chondroitin tends to me relatively more expensive anyway. Consult your physician and don't rely on bloggers.

Update B, 2/28/2020:  One physician whom I deeply respect weighed in on this and said the link between SOX-9 and pneumonia seems very tenuous. He also fears that the proposed relationship to tea and pneumonia mortality may not be driven by data but by a bias in favor of the Word of Wisdom.  Those are reasonable responses.

As for the area that seems stronger to me, the possible link between glucosamine and respiratory illness, his view is that the studies were observational rather than carefully designed which can lead to bias and other distortions. Later after looking more carefully, he observed that there wasn't any data from a clinical setting that would support the idea of taking glucosamine to prevent or treat pneumonia. Further, he noted that pneumonia involves inflammation of the alveoli, not the cartilage in the bronchi. And he observed that SARS-CoV-2 infects epithelial cells almost exclusively, which does not fit her model. If there is merit to any of the proposals discussed above, further research and clarification is needed.

I also took a look at the article linking EGCG to SOX-9 and cartilage growth,  and agree that there's a big gap in the alleged link between drinking tea and being more likely to die from pneumonia. The ability of SOX-9 to encourage cartilage growth still isn't clearly connected to the lung tissue damage seen in COVID-19 patents. It's a tenuous link, but is not the key to C.T.'s core proposal regarding glucosamine.

Update C, 2/28 & 2/29/2020: The unexpected closing of C.T.'s blog and the YouTube video after this post was frustrating, though I have since learned that she has a valid reason related to privacy, though I don't know the details. But I can't argue against those who say that it doesn't bode well for research when the researcher won't be or can't be named and withdraws related publications. In spite of that problematic issue, I still want to be open minded to see if there might be merit to the proposals C.T. has made. However, feedback already suggests there may be some flaws in both the theory and the interpretation of some studies. So far it looks like the intriguing theory and proposal may not as promising as I hoped, but still might have value. Further work may be needed. Given the low risk of taking glucosamine, I might keep some around just in case. But I hope I don't have the opportunity to be part of a trial on surviving COVID-19, and also hope that none of you will have that opportunity (but likewise hope that all of you survive it you are infected).