Photo by Chris Murray, Unsplash.

Solar ℞: The Secret Weapon of Operation Winter Sun

Subverting Lockdowns with Shelter-Outside

Charlie Deist
10 min readDec 8, 2020


It’s an almost universal law that whenever government declares a “War on X,” the problem of “X” gets worse. The War on Drugs, the War on Terror, and now, the War on Coronavirus.

One bitter irony of the latest fiasco is that there is mounting evidence that the virus was engineered and leaked from a Wuhan lab engaged in so-called “gain-of-function” research into coronaviruses. Gain-of-function research was intended as a kind of preventive measure to shed light on how viruses that originate in animals could be transmitted human-to-human. Instead, researchers in Wuhan appear to have accidentally let the bat out of the bag.

This kind of research stemmed in part from the conclusions of a 2001 bio-terror attack simulation, Operation Dark Winter, which warned that a contagious bioweapon pathogen would present “significant ethical, political, cultural, operational, and legal challenges.” We hear echoes of this bio-terror exercise in the rhetoric of politicians. Joe Biden, for example, warned about the coming “dark winter,” and the latest deaths are being used to justify a new round of draconian restrictions.

Many concerns about gain-of-function research were voiced prior to the pandemic [1], but the loudest voices at the World Health Organization drowned out the critics, and funding continued to flow into this burgeoning war on a hypothetical enemy — especially after 9/11 and the subsequent Anthrax scare.

Whether or not the gain-of-function research was directly responsible for the 2020 outbreak, we have now have been forced to confront the challenges raised by the Operation Dark Winter simulation in real time.

There Goes the Sun — Do, dun, do, do

States and locales waging the now fully-mature War on Coronavirus would be wise to look more than one step ahead, as they once again lock down their citizens heading into winter.

The psychological and economic toll of lockdowns has been immense, from unnecessary deaths from suicides and undiagnosed cancers, to iatrogenic deaths from ventilators and improper medications. Even top doctors at the WHO now admit that the latest research shows lockdowns are not correlated with lower death rates.

More importantly, however, is that the single best line of defense against Sars-CoV-2 appears to be available only to those who spend a significant amount of time outdoors. Vitamin D is one of the best markers for all-around health, and especially immune defense. Depriving people of vital outdoor time may thwart some spread of the virus today, but at the expense of higher fatalities in the weeks and months to come.

While lockdowns do not explicitly ban people from going outside, the language of “shelter in place” and “only leave home when it’s essential” is too easily construed to mean “don’t go outside at all.”

Never mind that outdoor transmission is a trivial contributor to the spread of COVID — nor that sunlight and fresh air are among the best disinfectants — the biggest reason to get outside is for the active role that vitamin D plays in regulating our response to harmful stressors. A German paper published in the October 2020 volume of Nutrients finds that vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency could account for as many as 9 out of 10 COVID deaths.

Over 100 doctors and scientists have signed on to an open letter calling for “Increased Vitamin D Use To Combat COVID-1.”

Vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency could account for as many as 9 out of 10 COVID deaths.

Inhabitants of northern latitudes must already go out of their way to expose their bare skin to enough sunlight to synthesize sufficient vitamin D to stave off everything from the flu to the “Winter Blues” (10–30 minutes of midday sunlight, multiple times per week, in summer and spring). From my location in Berkeley, California — latitude ~38 — it’s supposedly difficult to synthesize enough vitamin D to reach health serum levels between the months of October and April. Thus, it is even harder for those at higher latitudes, and especially for those with darker skin, who require more sunlight for natural synthesis to take place.

Supplementation with capsules and seafood (including fish oils) is a valuable remedy, but no substitute for the fiery glowing orb in the sky putting out 35.73 octillion lumens. (I present a more complete discussion of how to get the daily recommended value of vitamin D in my book Hormetics: Physical Fitness for Free People.)

Suffice it to say that the longer people stay indoors the more we can expect natural immunity to plummet in the months to come, making them more vulnerable to COVID and other diseases. Dr. Joseph Mercola reports on several recent studies that show a significantly beneficial impact of vitamin D on cancer risk (both in terms of treatment and prevention).

Most surprisingly, even those who have previously had melanoma — the most dangerous form of skin cancer — are less likely to die of any cause when they get more sunlight than those who avoid the sun. In other words, whatever the risk of skin cancer from too much sun, it is outweighed by the overall benefit of getting more sun.

With counterintuitive results like this in mind, is it such a leap to promote a variety of outdoor activities — including those which may slightly increase the risk of contracting COVID — which are likely to raise vitamin D levels by enough to counter the extra risk?

Photo: Simon Berger (Unsplash)

Operation Winter Sun

As the public wakes up to the necessity of vitamin D, we will need to make space for effective dosing of “Solar .”

To start, we can normalize renewed participation in outdoor activities of all kinds — even those for which it is not practical to wear a mask or socially distance. If, as the data suggests, the benefits of going outdoors outweigh the benefits of staying in, then people must not be deterred by the requirement to wear an apparatus of dubious benefit (in an outdoor setting) that restricts breathing and free play in sports like soccer, basketball, etc.

In fact, the extremely marginal risk of outdoor transmission suggests there is little reason to wear masks outdoors [2]. This would represent a step towards sanity, rational risk-management, and a reduction in the current climate of omnipresent anxiety. Wearing bacteria-laden cloth veils for outdoor activity is a prime example of “security theater” — akin to taking off your shoes or pouring out your water bottle before going through airport security. Softening or eliminating this norm is essential to restoring trust with one another, and ceasing to view our healthy neighbors as walking disease vectors.

Next, we should normalize the “modest nudity” (i.e., shorts-only for men, and shorts, a sports bra, and tank top women) popularized by French naval officer and physical educator Georges Hébert, so that the skin can absorb as much of the scarce winter sunlight as possible. The cooling effect of winter air also bolsters immunity and encourages more vigorous activity to warm up.

Children working out via La Methode Naturelle

Finally, while PCR testing is notoriously unreliable — frequently resulting in either false positives or false negatives depending on the test’s sensitivity —vitamin D testing should be made more widely available, and those who cannot raise their levels high enough through natural outdoor activity should be given supplements. This includes not just simple, over-the-counter pills, but potentially prescription-grade “megadoses” of vitamin D, which have fewer side effects than even the safest vaccines.

Another recent study in the Post-Graduate Medical Journal researched the effects of a 7-day course of 60,000 IU of oral vitamin D, randomizing COVID-positive participants and putting half in a control group receiving placebos. Three times as many participants in the group given vitamin D became COVID negative by the end of the week compared with the control group.

Three times as many participants in the group given vitamin D became COVID negative by the end of the week compared with the control group.

Most importantly, the study measured the rise in serum vitamin D levels from insufficient levels to very sufficient levels in those given the oral supplement .

Photo: Aleksei Ieshkin, Unsplash

Other Weapons in the Winter Sun Arsenal

Unfortunately, vitamin D alone is not a silver bullet in the “War on COVID.” Some have suggested that vitamin D is more a marker of overall good health rather than a determinant. Megadoses need not be a last resort, but they should not be the only line of defense either.

A host of holistic health factors determine one’s ultimate mortality risk. COVID merely happens to act like a magnifying glass — focusing the rays of disease and igniting the “dry tinder” of an unhealthy population.

One need look no further than the struggle the U.S. military has had in finding physically-fit recruits to see how precipitously our collective health has fallen over the past four decades. So much for the War on Fat, spearheaded by expert nutritionists who demonized dietary fat and helped bring about our current obesity epidemic.

In particular, the scapegoating of saturated fat paved the way for a profitable industrial seed oil business, where northern latitude crops rich in unstable polyunsaturated fats like rapeseed (Canola), soy, and safflower have pushed out more stable and healthy mono-saturated fats from tropical/equatorial fruit like avocado and coconut. Dr. Cate Shanahan has done a commendable job of relaying the harms of the “Hateful Eight” industrial seed oils wreaking havoc on the population at a cellular level.

Obesity, along with diabetes, fatty liver disease, and heart disease all share common causes, and all of these put a person at significantly higher risk of death from all causes — especially COVID. The same research mentioned early, showing that vitamin D is protective against cancer, also suggests that obesity may inhibit this vital nutrient from having its protective effect.

Thus, a comprehensive approach to combatting COVID this winter would also need to short-circuit the trends towards growing waistlines. What better time to address this issue than this winter? We know that mammals in northern latitudes have a tendency to gain weight in autumn before going dormant (or even hibernating) during the winter months, and then shedding pounds upon awakening in the spring through summer time.

Here, too, nature’s rhythm should be heeded, but need not have the last word. We can effectively trick our brains into thinking that it is summer by getting as much sunlight as possible. This drives our hormones into “energy wasting” mode — signaling that food is abundant and that we can deplete our fat stores without running the risk of starving.

The answer to the obesity epidemic is not a scarcity mentality and another round of restrictive diets, but a summer feast — best enjoyed with friends and family in nature. Thanks to globalization and trade with the global south, we can enjoy summer fruits throughout winter, along with slimming proteins and fats to fuel our outdoor activity.

Do These 5 Things, and Don’t Worry

The approach taken in the War on COVID has been a failure since before its inception.

If you take away one thing from this article, it is that the experts have failed us in nearly every way imaginable. The simplest solutions have been neglected while harmful tactics have wreaked havoc on both people’s lives and livelihoods.

Here are five individual choices you can make to take back control over your life from the failed experts:

  1. Get some sunlight every day.
  2. Eat wild-caught fish and consider a fish oil supplement (although natural is best).
  3. Avoid seed oils, sugar, and grains — the staples of a deadly (and fattening) modern “autumnal” diet.
  4. Engage in vigorous outdoor exercise. Play sports, lift heavy things with proper form, run, climb, swim, crawl, and walk (a la “la methode naturelle”).
  5. Find a tribe of friends with whom you can socialize and spread winter cheer.

And you can add a sixth, which is “Pray, hope, and don’t worry” – the saying of the Franciscan mystic, Padre Pio, which becomes self-fulfilling to the extent that you practice it along with the other five choices.

This is the only way we win the “War on COVID” — not with bio-terror simulations, gain-of-function research, risky vaccines, biosafety level 4 labs, and lockdowns, and not by surrendering our freedom, our common sense, and our natural born right to go outside.

[1] “In response to such concerns the US banned certain classes of experiments, called gain of function (GOF) experiments, with PPPs in 2014, but the ban (actually a funding moratorium) was lifted in 2017.”

[2] See Alex Berenson’s latest installment on masks in the “Unreported Truths About COVID” Series



Charlie Deist