What makes Special Forces elite is our training and, most importantly, our planning. Before going on a mission, we would conduct “Isolation” where we would be in a secure compound and plan our mission. We’d conduct an Area Study, which focused on the Area of Operations where we would be doing the mission. We’d plan the mission from infiltration, actions on the objective, through exfiltration. Key was war-gaming what could go wrong. We’d try to think of every possible contingency using Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong, will.

With that in mind, given I’ve already written The Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide based on my training, deployment experiences, and having taught at the JFK Special Warfare Center & School at Fort Bragg for a number of years, I’ve added an Appendix to both it, and the Pocket-Sized Survival Guide (smaller and compact without the preparation part), focused specifically on COVID-19, the Coronavirus.

There’s a Good Chance We Will Be Exposed to the Coronavirus.

Why is it likely? Because the unique combination of how long a person can be infected before it manifests itself and the fact we have no vaccine for it and won’t have one soon. Also, even with a vaccine, it won’t go away. It will become something else we need to get a shot for every year. Once the shot is invented.

Don’t panic, though. You might be asymptomatic (show no symptoms). You may develop mild symptoms and be fine. You might get sick but the odds are you will get through it. The mortality rate is very low.

There are two factors to consider: the odds of getting it, and then the odds that it will be fatal. Again, don’t panic. Read and become educated on it. I’ll explain as best I can using the latest information as of 2 March 2020.


When Avian Flu broke out in 1997, it was something that had been seen before, but only in birds. When the first human fatality occurred, authorities acted swiftly. Initially, 18 cases were identified. 6 people died. In the last two decades Avian Flu has killed 455 people. The reason the number is low is because this flu is so deadly. It presents itself quickly, before it can spread. It has a roughly 60% mortality rate. The ‘regular’ flu has less than a .1% mortality rate. Yet it kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. Why? Because it can spread before showing symptoms and thus more people get it. This is why it is likely we will be exposed to COVID-19.

Right now, it’s estimated that Coronavirus has less than a 2% mortality rate. But because it is slow to manifest itself, people who have it show no symptoms and can spread it. This is the danger of Coronavirus: it is deadly, but not overly deadly. A perfect storm of virus. People are testing positive for it without showing any symptoms. Which means it’s spreading right now and we can’t tell how fast and how far.

How does it spread?

The Coronavirus is not airborne like measles or smallpox. It is spread through droplets. This means it is spread by contact. It only infects the lungs.

Thus, someone sneezing can spread it several feet around them when sneezing. Use six feet as your blast radius. If you’re sitting on a plane and someone sneezes and doesn’t cover it up, that is the distance they are spreading it, give or take.

While your mask might protect you from inhaling a droplet, it can still get on you (and the mask so you can put the virus on your hands if you touch it or when you take it off) and then in you via contact by your hand with your nose or mouth.

How long does it last on a surface? This is the most dangerous part you have to factor in to everything you do.

While much isn’t known right now, here are the best estimates: Depending on the material and the conditions, human coronaviruses can remain infectious from 2 hours to 9 days on a surface. At temperatures of around 4°C or 39°F, certain versions of the coronavirus could remain viable for up to 28 days. At temperatures of 30–40°C (86–104°F), coronaviruses tended to persist for a shorter time. High humidity also helps it hang around. This is not good.

At room temperature, a coronavirus responsible for the common cold (HCoV-229E) persisted significantly longer in 50% humidity than 30% humidity. For working purposes: Human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces at room temperature for up to 9 days. At a temperature of 30°C [86°F] or more, the duration of persistence is shorter. Veterinary coronaviruses have been shown to persist even longer for 28 days.

The bottom line is that there are variables in how long the Coronavirus will be viable on various surfaces in varying environments. Anywhere from several hours, to weeks. We should know more as more research is done.

But consider the problem this presents. Anything you touch might have the virus on it. One thing I’ve thought of is Amazon Prime. Think of the number of people who touch the product and the box before it gets to your doorstep? The newspaper I get out of the mailbox each morning? This is why the spread will be so large.

To disinfect for Coronavirus: Hydrogen peroxide (.5%) or bleach (.1%) appears to work. Chlorhexidine digluconate, often used as antiseptic, is not effective. Hand sanitizer with better than 60% alcohol based. Keep a bottle by every entrance to your house. Keep it in your car. Use after contacting any possibly contaminated surfaces.

I am not a doctor and just referring to the information I have researched.


The first goal to prevent a pandemic is containment. While there is a chance Coronavirus will be contained, it grows less likely each day as more cases pop up around the world. Particularly when we see it in people who have not traveled to a contaminated area or, as far as can be determined, have not had contact with someone who has. The virus, as of 27 February 2020, is in forty countries. Just a few days ago that number was twenty-four.

Coronavirus has developed in people who were asymptomatic. Thus, people who appear and test normal, are spreading it. Some epidemiologists believe that within a year, forty to seventy percent of the people around the world will be exposed to Coronavirus. Many will be asymptomatic and fine. Some will have mild symptoms and turn out all right. Those with chronic health problems and the old are the most at risk of serious complications from it. It is a virus that causes a respiratory illness.

What are the Symptoms?

Coronavirus causes pneumonia. If infected, you’ll suffer cough, fever and difficult breathing. If its severe, there can be organ failure. Because it’s a viral pneumonia, antibiotics are not useful. Flu antivirals also don’t work. Ultimately recovery depends on the strength of a person’s immune system.

The majority of those who have died had weakened immune systems or were in poor health to begin with. Heavy smokers are at risk.

How do you protect yourself?

Wash your hands constantly. Also, you can get it from touching a surface with droplets on it. It’s unknown how long Coronavirus remains active outside the body, which is part of the problem. It persists longer in colder, more humid environments. Using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand kills the virus that may be on your hands. Dry your hands on a paper towel you don’t reuse rather than a cloth towel or use an air dry.

When you wash, do it for 10 to 20 seconds. I’ve seen people ridiculing videos and instructions on-line about ‘how to wash your hands’, since they think that’s a simple skill they learned as a child. Take your cell phone. Go to the timer. Set it for 20 seconds. Run it. Never knew 20 seconds was that long, eh? A nurse told me he was taught to silently sing “Happy Birthday” to himself three times and that was long enough. As a kid in the Bronx, when we played touch football in the street we’d go “One-Mississippi-Two-Mississippi-Three-Mississippi” etcetera before we could rush the quarterback.

Wash your hands constantly. When caring for the sick. Before, during and after preparing a meal. Before eating. After toilet use. When hands are dirty. After handling animals or animal waste.

Hands: Don’t shake hands. Use your knuckles to turn on light switches, use elevator buttons, etc. Use a paper towel or have gloves on when getting gas. Wear disposable latex gloves when going out, remembering to not touch your face. Dispose of when entering your home.

Masks? Their effectiveness is debatable and I see arguments on both sides. The CDC doesn’t recommend that healthy people wear one. Most people don’t know how to use one properly; they might not fit well; most dangerously, they can give a false sense of security. Use a mask if you are caring for someone who is sick. A positive of a mask is to remind you not to touch your face. An infected person should definitely be masked. If masked it must cover both mouth and nose.

Gloves: Use disposable latex gloves when coming in contact with surfaces that could be contaminated. Remember, they will be contaminated then, but if you don’t touch your face and discard, it’s a plus.

Avoid touching your nose and mouth. If the virus is on your hands, and you touch either of those, that is how it enters your body. If you touch food or drink with contaminated hands and then consume it, it can enter that way.

Practice respiratory hygiene. This sounds fancy but it means covering your mouth with your bent elbow (not your hand) or a tissue when you sneeze. Dispose of the tissue.

Avoid close contact with others. This is called keeping social distancing. Keep at least 3 feet, especially if someone is coughing or sneezing. Don’t shake hands or hug others.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. Call your health provider and find out where you should go.

Zinc lozenges:  These have some effectiveness if you use them as scheduled. Lie on your back while you let it dissolve so it gets to the back of your throat and nasopharynx.

Stay informed and follow advice. This is an ongoing and fluid situation, so keep up to date with the latest. One report I saw indicated that it is possible to get COVID-19 again, after it clears up. I don’t know if that’s true or not, so stay up to speed.

Practice food safety. Use different chopping boards and knives for raw meat and cooked foods. Wash your hands when switching between handling the two.

Protect others from getting sick. If you have fever, cough or difficulty breathing, isolate yourself and seek medical attention. Don’t go to work or school and spread it.

Traveling? Avoid it as much as you can. Avoid nonessential travel. Avoid cruises.


While you should be prepared at a basic level as indicated in my Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide, there are things you can do now. Consider how you’d prepare if there was a snowstorm in your area. Stock your cupboards with additional food. Canned coup, beans, pasta, rice are good examples. Consider having enough on hand to last several weeks. This is covered in detail under Food in the preparation portion of that book.

Make sure you have aspirin or ibuprofen on hand.

If you take prescription medicine have as much on hand as you can.

Consider if you have to home school. Japan has already closed schools to reopen later in the year.

Consider if you can work from home.

The Vaccine:

Scientists are already at work on vaccines because the Chinese, once they identified it, sent the data to other scientists around the world.

Making vaccines is difficult. Researchers have to copy the virus’s RNA, which is happening right now. Then the hard part: finding a viral sequence that will cause a protective reaction from the body, but not an acute one that will cause problems of its own. That fine tipping point is difficult to find. It requires considerable testing or else the solution might be as bad as the problem.

The best estimates are 12 to 18 months to a vaccine. Even then, manufacture and distribution will take time. Thus, the next year will be critical. There are other complications. What if manufacture requires an intact supply chain and the pandemic has broken that chain? What if one country comes up with a vaccine but closes its borders until all its citizens are vaccinated?

A large problem is that governments and particularly private industry, have been unwilling to invest large amounts of money and time into developing the capability to invent vaccines when there is no urgent threat. But once there is an urgent threat, it takes time to spin up the mechanism to do so. The United States recently went backwards in this regard with cuts to various agencies that research and deal with the possibility of pandemics. It is not something that can spin up at full speed since they’ve been shuttered. Also, research needs to be ongoing.

What is a Pandemic?

A pandemic is an epidemic of infectious disease that spreads across a large region; usually multiple continents. Some of this information replicates the material for COVID-19, but there is the probability of different pandemics in the future.

Experts believe the odds of a pandemic within the next fifty years are very high. Estimates are that: 1 billion people would get sick. 165 million will die There will be a global recession and depression. If you do the percentage, that’s a 1.65% mortality rate. Currently, it’s estimated that coronavirus has a mortality rate of under 2%

Why are the odds of a pandemic high?

1. Global population has increased dramatically.

2. People are moving to crowded, central locations: cities.

3. World-wide travel is much faster and more common.

If it’s a true pandemic, it’s not likely that a hospital is a place to go as it will quickly become overwhelmed with the sick and dying. The bottom line is to stay aware and isolate yourself and your team as quickly as possible.

The problem is that the spread of Coronavirus won’t be instantaneous and burn out just as quickly. If your area is seeing cases it would be prudent to isolate for a month, but it will probably take longer for the virus to pass. That is why the chances of contracting it are high. This isn’t being alarmist, but realistic.

I hope I am wrong about all of this. Nothing I’ve written about is locked down. There are many variables. but I’ve found it best to be knowledgeable and realistic about possibilities.

For those who might find getting the Preparation and Survival Guide financially difficult, I’ll be glad to send you a pdf version via email at bob@bobmayer.com

The Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide and The Green Beret Pocket-Sized Survival Guide.