Coronavirus as a Global Health Issue and Current Impact/Responses in the U.S.

As the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty at the NYU School of Global Public Health persevere with virtual research, education, and public service. Last week they shared their expertise and insights on the evolving crisis in a webinar with USA TODAY health care policy correspondent Jayne O’Donnell.

She was joined by GPH Dean Cheryl Healton; David Abramson, Clinical Associate Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences;  Jack Caravanos, Clinical Professor of Environmental Public Health Sciences; Robyn Gershon, Clinical Professor of Epidemiology;  and Elodie Ghedin,  Professor of Epidemiology.

The wide-ranging discussion covered characteristics of the virus, as well as vulnerabilities to the consequences of containment and mitigation strategies. Through the lens of the social determinants of health, they discussed the need for maximal equity in order to “mitigate the impact of the cure of the crisis on the least among us,” according to Dean Healton.

They also examined the complex process of public health risk communication -- including the “epidemic of uncertainty.” Due to conflicts between political leaders and the scientific community, a fog of confusion sometimes accompanies responses to this unprecedented challenge. “We can’t have political leaders question the evidence at the same time that public health authorities are promoting it. It will only sow uncertainty,” said Dr.  Abramson. “We need a ‘unity of purpose.'”

As of today, the United States has the highest number of COVID-19 cases worldwide.  “We are tinder for fire,” said Dr. Ghedin, “and with asymptomatic people walking around inadvertently spreading it to others, we cannot ease up on social distancing just yet.”

Dr. Gershon encouraged our collective mettle “to be hyper-vigilant and maintain a high level of it through this wave, and into the beginning of the next wave.”