National Public Health Week or National Public Health Year?Apr 6, 2020
The obituaries show that the COVID-19 epidemic has reached widely. John Murray, a pioneer of modern pulmonary medicine who studied the adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), the pulmonary killer in COVID-19, died of the virus at age 92. Some favorite jazz musicians were also victims: Ellis Marsalis, the father of a quartet of jazz musician sons, and Wallace Roney, a trumpeter and Miles Davis protégé. However, most of the deceased will not have obituaries in the New York Times as the epidemic’s toll of deaths rises.
Epidemics thrive on inequities—in resources and in access to quality health care and more. Those with more resources can more readily implement social distancing, perhaps because they can better afford deliveries and their jobs are more likely to be amenable to being carried out at home. Those with less resources are more likely to be engaged in some of the essential businesses, such as grocery stores and delivery services, and to be taking public transportation. Predictably, strained healthcare facilities may not be rationed equitably. Income disparities will worsen over the course of the epidemic, and afterwards. We know that there will be long-term consequences for the public’s health and worsening of health disparities.
National Public Health Week corresponds to a critical moment in Colorado’s COVID-19 epidemic; we will be looking for indication that the initial social distancing measures, taken on March 17 have slowed the epidemic and for the earliest evidence that the subsequent measures, implemented on March 27, are now “bending the curve.” We should be hopeful, as there are indications that Coloradans have been compliant. See, for example, the Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report. And this weekend on my forays outside my home, it appeared that the majority are complying with the Governor’s call to wear masks in public.
The scientific literature on COVID-19 continues to expand. For a quick and rapid introduction to what we know, watch the Department of Medicine Grand Rounds from April 1, which covers modeling, virology, the clinical picture, and therapeutic possibilities. And stay tuned for a National Public Health Week extra: a webinar on April 13 entitled: “The COVID-19 Pandemic and Colorado: Epidemiology in Action”. In addition to myself, the presenters include Elizabeth Carlton, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, and Rachel Herlihy, MD, MPH, Communicable Disease Branch Chief and State Epidemiologist, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Jonathan Samet, MD, MS
Dean, Colorado School of Public Health