The COVID-19 Pandemic: Equity, diversity, and inclusion—an update from ColoradoSPHJul 26, 2021
At the campus level, Regina Richards, Vice Chancellor of Diversity Equity Inclusion and Community Engagement (DEICE), leads the Chancellor’s DEICE Leadership Council. Planning continues for the new Center for Health Equity, under the leadership of Regina Richards and Mark Earnest (Chief, Division of General Internal Medicine). The center will be located at the Aurora Community Health Commons and be community-facing.
The school’s leadership has had valuable discussions in our Executive Council “book club.” The first book was Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. Our Staff and PRA Council is reading Caste as well. Led by Cerise Hunt, the book club has sparked conversations and brought the powerful lens of the U.S. race-based caste to our school, in addition to our ingrained caste system and power structures—think academic rank as an example. In her book, Wilkerson uses caste to explore race, societal structure, and power interactions in the United States, drawing analogies across three major caste systems: India, Nazi Germany, and the United States. The comparisons work. Ultimately, we must do our part and take action to dismantle the caste system. One more reading resource—the summer 2021 special issue of Scientific American, “The Science of Overcoming Racism.” The articles are short, cover a wide range of topics, and are written in the magazine’s reader-friendly style.
Also, please do not forget to register for Wednesday’s Dismantling Structural Racism and Advancing Inclusive Excellence Town Hall.
Turning to the pandemic scorecard, the disturbing national trends continue—rising cases and hospitalizations linked tightly to low rates of vaccination. In Colorado, hospitalizations for COVID-19 remain at a plateau of around 270, holding there for several weeks. The cause of the surge is as evident as its solution—vaccination. One of the latest incentives for Coloradans to be vaccinated are $100 gift cards from Walmart. Apparently, the incentive of protection for oneself and others against COVID-19 is insufficient for large numbers of Americans.
And based on personal experience, other respiratory viruses are back as we relax infection control measures. Per the CDC, respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza virus, and respiratory adenoviruses have increased in frequency. This rise indicates that people are mixing, contributing to the surge in COVID-19. Over the last six weeks, I have had two respiratory infections. The most recent infection started 48 hours after flying to Boston. The clinical picture was sufficiently COVID-19-like to lead me to seek a rapid test—my first. We were in Rhode Island, where I signed up to be tested at a nearby CVS Pharmacy. I was impressed by the ease of signing up online, the efficiency of the testing process, and the rapidity with which results were returned. Within two hours of being tested (with negative findings), I had been called by a nurse practitioner and received an email from CVS and a separate one from the Rhode Island Department of Health. Public health agencies are doing many things well, most importantly providing ready access to vaccines and testing.
Jonathan Samet, MD, MS
Dean, Colorado School of Public Health