WHO Says Limit Alcohol Consumption During Pandemic

Next thing you know, they'll tell us to eat vegetables.

CNBC (“Drinking alcohol can make the coronavirus worse, the WHO says in recommending restricting access“):

Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of catching Covid-19 and make it worse if you do get it, the World Health Organization said, recommending that government leaders around the world limit access to alcohol during coronavirus lockdowns.

“Alcohol compromises the body’s immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes,” the WHO’s regional office for Europe said on its site late Tuesday, citing heavy alcohol use throughout the continent.

Alcohol consumption is associated with a number of communicable and noncommunicable diseases that can make a person more vulnerable to contracting Covid-19. It can also exacerbate mental health issues and risk-taking behavior and stoke violence, especially in countries that have implemented social distancing measures that largely keep the population quarantined in their homes.

Between cozying up to the Chinese and now this, I’m starting to get behind President Trump’s decision to defund these yahoos.

The WHO also published a fact sheet dispelling the “dangerous myth that consuming high-strength alcohol can kill” the coronavirus.

“It does not,” the WHO said, adding that it could result in serious health issues, including death, especially if it’s adulterated with methanol. About 3 million deaths a year are attributable to alcohol without a pandemic driving up consumption.

I don’t know who’s adulterating their hooch with methanol but I agree they should stop doing that.

“Therefore, people should minimize their alcohol consumption at any time, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the office said.

I just don’t know about these guys.

Thankfully, my fellow Americans are not listening:

Americans are nonetheless stocking up. Alcohol sales at U.S. liquor and grocery stores were up 22% for the week ending March 28 compared with the same time last year, according to data compiled by Nielsen. And more Americans are drinking at home, according to financial services company Rabobank, as the market for on-site dining and drinking stands to miss out on $15 billion in alcohol sales over the next two months.

We really owe it to the liquor industry to support them during this critical time.

In the immortal words of Willie Nelson, there are more old drunks than there are old doctors.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Say WHAT?????!!!!!????!?!?!?!!??

    They want us to face this crisis sober????

  2. mattbernius says:

    On Monday I had a telemedicine appointment with a Gastrointerologist about some acid reflux issues. He asked about how much alcohol I consume.

    “Pre- or post-C19?” I asked.

    He said normally they tell everyone to reduce their alcohol consumption to help with reflux. However, for the moment, he said the goal should be to keep it down to two glasses a day.

    Pray for me…

  3. Kit says:

    I don’t know who’s adulterating their hooch with methanol

    A lot of people say that Trump Vodka is loaded with the stuff. A lot of good people. I’m just saying that maybe we should investigate.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Limiting alcohol consumption, not smoking (anything), and, yes, eating more vegetables are all good health advice, not specific to COVID-19. I suspect the WHO has no specific information that actually says that people who drink are more susceptible to the virus other than general guidelines.

    A larger question is whether the WHO offering this advice at this time enhances the org’s reputation or calls it into doubt? In other words I question the timing.

  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    “Alcohol compromises the body’s immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes,”

    Well, duh.
    Alcohol also can increase hypertension and glucose levels…apparently people with high BP and Diabetics are more susceptible to this plague.
    I hope you are being sarcastic about defunding the WHO.
    Trump was saying the same exact things they were. If we are going to defund anyone, I say we defund the Executive.

  6. CSK says:

    Where is that stuff sold? I’ve never seen it anywhere–and I’m a vodka drinker. I know it was a sales disaster, because it was ludicrously overpriced. But did any retailer ever bother to stock it?

  7. Sleeping Dog says:

    Damn, I hope my wife doesn’t see this. One of our few current pleasures is sharing a bottle of wine over dinner.

    Oh where is Kingsley Amis when you need him.

  8. Mikey says:

    You can take my Negroni when you pry it from my cold, dead, Campari-stained fingers!

  9. Kit says:


    Where is that stuff sold?

    I tend to stock up when I pass by my local methanol plant. I hear that a lot of people do that.

  10. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Didn’t Amis end up having to quit drinking? I recall reading something by him where he spoke of having a tonic before dinner rather than a gin and tonic.t

  11. CSK says:

    Oh, yeah. “Many people are saying” that’s what they do.

  12. Jen says:

    Of course, it’s healthier to avoid alcohol, which can trigger inflammatory responses in the body. My issue right now are the extra calories, I’m pretty sure I’ve added a pound or two. I used to work until my husband got home from the office and then have a glass of wine during preparation/eating dinner. Since we’re both WFH now, we both have something at 5:00/5:30, and then more with dinner. I’ve gone from 1 glass/day to ~2/day.

    This isn’t the healthiest behavior and I recognize that, HOWEVER, it signals a break in the day and I wonder how much damage it’s really doing if it’s a ritual that reduces stress.

  13. James Joyner says:


    he said the goal should be to keep it down to two glasses a day.

    That’s perfectly reasonable, so long as I can choose the size of the glass.

  14. CSK says:

    If you’re having a glass of red wine per day, your cardiologist will probably approve.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    Alcohol sales at U.S. liquor and grocery stores were up 22% for the week ending March 28

    But I’m not seeing empty shelves at my liquor store. Except Everclear.

    I keep seeing people ask why liquor stores are open when churches or whatever are closed. Because we don’t want to see a Second Whiskey Rebellion.

  16. Kathy says:

    Mexico has a weird custom to close down liquor sales at times of national emergency, also for some reason in elections (at one time also on weekend nights). So it’s no surprise several states imposed “dry law,” as it’s commonly known, and banned all booze for sale.

    Me, I drink very little. I can’t say when I last drank something. Probably a glass of wine a few weeks back when I made chicken with white wine sauce. I bought a bottle of sherry a few months back, but that’s for cooking.

    I drink a lot, by my standards, when I go to Vegas. It’s “free,” after all.

  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    Obviously, like any drug, alcohol consumption should be measured relative to body weight.

    Drinking alcohol can cause you to gain weight. The more you drink, the more you gain, and therefore the more you can drink. Alcohol is self-mitigating. This is obviously all part of God’s plan.

  18. Slugger says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Very good remark!
    Here is some science for those who still trust scienticians:
    People with alcohol use disorder have a real risk of respiratory problems. Low risk is defined as less than 14 drinks per week in men. I could not find an exact scale to determine how much risk each drink above the 14/week entails.

  19. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    I hear that the Bible is full of kind remarks about booze.

  20. mattbernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    That’s perfectly reasonable, so long as I can choose the size of the glass.

    Yeah, I opted not to ask that particular question so I could live in blissful ignorance.

    My issue right now are the extra calories, I’m pretty sure I’ve added a pound or two.

    Ugh, yeah I stepped on the scale and that was a mistake. Though on the plus side, I’ll be able to move into a heavier-weight bracket in grappling competitions without having to go through the hassle of the work to add muscle.

  21. Liberal Capitalist says:

    So, it looks like alcohol could lead to poor decision making.

    Who knew. Go figure.

  22. Kathy says:

    Calories in alcohol are rather high, but get even higher in cocktails by adding fruit juice, regular soda(*), sugar, syrups, and in some cases whipped cream.

    In Vegas I make up for it, and the lavish buffets, by not having breakfast, and opting for a rather light dinner.

    For the record, my drink of choice is Black Russian, which is Kahlua and vodka

    (*) Many regular sodas exceed the recommended daily sugar intake with as little as a one and a half cans.

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: Isn’t that why people drink?

  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: I don’t drink soda, therefor I get to drink as much beer and wine as I want.

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mikey: 😛

  26. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kathy:..but that’s for cooking.

    Ha! I used to drink the cooking sherry (salty stuff) when I did’t have 60cents for a bottle of Thunderbird. Besides the sherry went down smoother than the shaving lotion.

  27. CSK says:

    The late Lawrence Sanders advised consuming Negronis “only within walking distance of your bed.”

  28. sam says:


    “I hear that the Bible is full of kind remarks about booze.”

    John 2:1-11 [King James Version]

    2 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

    2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

    3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.

    4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

    5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

    6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

    7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

    8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

    9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,

    10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

    11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.


  29. Mister Bluster says:

    @Mister Bluster:..didn’t have…

  30. Joe says:

    @James Joyner:
    What is a bottle, really, other than a thin-necked glass.

  31. CSK says:

    And I say unto thee: “Nothing, absolutely nothing, beats a firkin or two of good wine.”

    Verily indeed.

  32. Jay L Gischer says:

    I used to be pretty much teetotal, but then I had a heart attack. My cholesterol is the result of poor genes. My cardiologist recommends I get better parents.

    But, as a result, I drink one glass of red wine a day. I haven’t changed during the pandemic, but it has meant a trip to Bevmo where they brought the big box of wine bottles outside to me.

    This is a vulnerable time for us all, and while I really don’t want to be heavy handed about this, please take care of yourselves and don’t overdo it. People notice when something happens to a commenter and they just disappear. People like me.

  33. Sleeping Dog says:


    Not sure about whether he needed to give up drinking, but he wrote 3 books on drinking that have been released together as Everyday Drinking.

  34. sam says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    “60cents for a bottle of Thunderbird”

    Ha! From my (long, long) ago youth: “What’s the word? Thunderbird! What’s the price? Thirty twice!”

    These days, as I often say, I only drink the more expensive of the cheap red wines.

  35. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    I have a vague recollection it might have been part of some very short-lived weight loss program.

  36. Mister Bluster says:

    What’s the word? Thunderbird. How’s it sold? Good and cold. What’s the jive? Bird’s alive. What’s the price? Thirty twice.

  37. CSK says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    My father had a quintuple coronary artery bypass at age 78, and thereafter, on his cardiologist’s recommendation, drank a glass of red wine per day. He lived to be well past 94 with all his marbles intact.


  38. Michael Cain says:

    I had an ugly upper respiratory infection starting about Jan 10, and gave up alcohol while I was taking the antibiotic and various symptom-suppressing drugs. Then I counted up the number of empty calories I was skipping and it worked out to about two pounds per month, so I stayed off (except for special occasions with friends). In three years I’ll be old enough to qualify for the 70+ age group at USA Fencing’s national tournament. If I lose the weight and get some “quick” back, I could go and not completely embarrass myself…

  39. Pete S says:

    @mattbernius: @James Joyner:
    No need for large glasses, it doesn’t sound like the doctor said a word about how many times you could fill those two glasses…

  40. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Cain: Fingers crossed for a truly laughable performance. 😉

  41. charon says:

    If you have ever been in a high altitude chamber, you know that simulated 30,000 ft altitude looks a lot like being drunk.

    This is because alcohol disrupts the brain’s access to oxygen.

    Given the links of COVID-19 to hypoxia, drinking while sick does look like a poor idea.

  42. Jen says:


    drinking while sick does look like a poor idea.

    Of course–that’s not really what the WHO is saying though (or, it’s not all they are saying). They are saying that drinking can increase your chance of contracting the virus, which means they are recommending people stay away from alcohol even if they are completely healthy.

  43. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Michael Cain:
    My youngest daughter took fencing lessons for a while. Me every time I watched her, even when she won: Wait, it’s over? What happened? How can it be over?

    Inigo Montoya vs. The Dread Pirate Roberts it was not.

  44. KM says:

    @Michael Cain:
    From one fencer to another, good luck!

    That’s the one thing I really miss about this outbreak. I can chat with my friends online or do a parking lot happy hour. I can jog or do yoga in my living room. But there’s nothing like going out for pizza and a drink after a night of epee. First one out of the pool heads to the bar and starts the tab, final victor drinks free all night. Was just getting good enough that I only had to pay for a drink or two all night long.

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Yeah, there’s a reason it’s not on ESPN. I fence and when I’m not in a match or the ref, I’m on my phone on the sidelines. Both have to be *good* for it to be entertaining….. or really really bad.

    Inigo Montoya vs. The Dread Pirate Roberts type fighting is called Flynning. It’s a basically a drill done really fast and loud. Same moves over and over again to be predictably flashy. A real sword match has one guy gone before he knows who sliced him 🙂

  45. charon says:


    Of course–that’s not really what the WHO is saying though (or, it’s not all they are saying). They are saying that drinking can increase your chance of contracting the virus, which means they are recommending people stay away from alcohol even if they are completely healthy.

    OTOH, how do you know you are healthy, so many asymptomatic cases, there are even studies saying the bulk of cases are asymptomatic. If you are asymptomatic, do you want to progress to symptomatic? (Apparently early oxygen reduces likelihood disease worsens).

  46. Michael Cain says:

    @Michael Reynolds: It’s not much of a spectator sport. One, you have to know what to look for. Two, even given that you know it looks much faster and is harder to see from the side than when you’re on the strip (see KM’s comment on theatrical fencing, which is almost always viewed from the side because that’s a lot more impressive looking). The streamed video coverage for the London Olympics was terrific — what went out was the raw feed w/o commentators, and for every touch you got the full-speed action followed by a quick slow-motion shot of the actual touch. I was somewhat surprised by how many times I got the epee touch that counted wrong. For saber, I might as well have been guessing.

  47. EddieInCA says:

    I’m limiting myself to one glass of Bourbon per day. Of course, the glass is a pint glass, and I start at 11am… so….

  48. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I thought everyone knew that movies and TV shows have fight choreographers. The Tae Kwon Do matches I watch in Korea also lasted a minute or two typically. Ya gotta choreograph this stuff so there’s something for the audience to see. Only parents are satisfied with just seeing their kid’s hand raised.

  49. Stormy Dragon says:

    It should be noted that the neo-prohibitionist movement spends a lot of effort getting people into various public health organizations, including WHO, so there’s a significant chance this is some of them taking advantage of a crisis to further pre-existing policy goals.

  50. de stijl says:

    Hey, man!

    I have a beverage here!

    (I don’t even like White Russians that much, but I have a sudden craving.)

  51. grumpy realist says:

    @Dave Schuler: There is supposedly an effect on one’s immune system from imbibing alcohol, but all the data I ran across indicates it’s a “heavy drinker” problem, not an “any alcohol at all” problem.

    I suspect that the WHO are trying to take advantage of COVID-19 to impose world-wide prohibition. And no, it’s not going to work any better this time than it did the first time we tried it, guys….

    I’ll eat the kale, the lentils, and make sure I drink 8 cups of water a day. But you will pry my Laphraoig from my cold dead hands….