As White House's social distancing guidelines expire, health experts worry mixed messages will spur public complacency (The Washington Post, April 30)
Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said the CDC was under pressure to defer to the states despite the disease’s rampant spread because of White House eagerness to get the economy up and running again.
“I’m not sure they’re being driven completely by the science here,” he said. “They’re trying to do the best they can given that they’re being driven to some extent by the White House.”
Calls to poison control have spiked. Are you using cleaning products safely? (NBC News Today, April 30)
Outside the human body, viruses tend to weaken or die easily. “The virus is a piece of genetic material that is surrounded by kind of a fatty membrane,” Dr. Benjamin said. “And that's important because it means that if you just disrupt the fatty membrane and expose the genetic material, that you in effect can destroy its ability to infect you.”
Why Coronavirus is Not the Great Equalizer (AJ+, April 30)
Georges Benjamin: "We know that there are reasons why we have these health inequities. And that's our societal issues, you know, transportation, and housing, and the environment and all the things that we know that people of color have to deal with that are unequal. And by the way, that includes discrimination and racism."
Half of States Don't Meet Benchmarks to Reopen Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, Analysis Shows (U.S. News & World Report, April 29)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, [executive director] of the American Public Health Association, says states should also consider other factors, such as hospitalizations and deaths, when they're formulating pandemic policy.
He observes that there are vast testing deserts throughout the U.S. "If you're in Michigan, you've tested a lot of people in Detroit, but you haven't tested a lot in rural communities," Benjamin says. "What does that mean? Michigan is a big state."
'A Terrible Price':'The Deadly Racial Disparities of COVID-19 in America (New York Times magazine, April 29)
Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, a physician and epidemiologist and a former president of the American Public Health Association, describes this effect as “accelerated aging.” “We have evidence that the wear and tear of racism, the stress of it, is responsible for the differences in health outcomes in the black population compared to the white population,” Dr. Jones says.
Will summer kill coronavirus? Cities fear heat waves will quickly become deadly. (The Washington Post, April 28)
Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said the expected reemergence of traditional summer behaviors highlights the need for guidance from public officials beyond simply asking residents to stay indoors or stay six feet apart.
“People are going to want to barbecue, and they are going to want to have large gatherings,” Benjamin said. “I think we are going to have to give them pretty good advice” on how to do it safely.
Will coronavirus finally kill the open office? (Mic, April 28)
Georges Benjamin: I think the workplace will change. How much it changes remains to be seen. I think making sure people get more flu shots, better respiratory hygiene, and hand hygiene will probably become standard. People will probably tend to wash their hands more. Changing people is very tough, but I suspect things like that will continue.
There Aren't Enough Coronavirus Test Kits to Safely Reopen America, Experts Warn (U.S. News & World Report April 27)
There's no way to tell if people already infected with the coronavirus are now immune, even if they carry antibodies, the experts said.
And even if that is the case, far too few people have contracted the virus to create any level of herd immunity, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
COVID-19 Antibody Testing Brings Cautious Hope (WebMD Health News, April 27)
In Los Angeles, some 800 county residents have visited drive-thru testing sites. According to Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association, a little over 4% of adults in the county were antibody-positive.
Discussing possibilities for fall 2020 (GW Hatchet podcast "Getting to the Bottom of It," April 27)
Podcast host Alec Rich speaks with experts in public health and higher education to examine where the University might land in its decision to hold on-campus classes this fall.
Georges Benjamin: "I think we know that we’re still having a fair amount, of course of community transformation of the virus, and that the likelihood of us returning to what we consider the normal environment is just not going to happen anytime soon. And so we’re going to have to continue how we figure out how to readjust for certainly the next several months, kind of in this remote environment and things will be a lot different than they were this time a year ago."
Major health groups and charities urge Trump to reverse World Health Organization funding decision (CNN, April 24)
"The United States cannot rid this insidious virus from the country, nor around the world, without WHO," the letter addressed to President Donald Trump, and sent to the White House on Thursday night says. "WHO is the only organization with the technical capacity and global mandate to support the public health response of all countries during this critical time."
Signatories include influential companies and groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, Oxfam, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the American Public Health Association and the healthcare company Kaiser Permanente.
Uncertainty lies ahead as US enters new phase of coronavirus fight (Washington Examiner, April 24)
Even public health experts differ on whether it is too soon to reopen the economy.
"I absolutely believe it is too early," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director at the American Public Health Association. "And I think Georgia picked the wrong sectors to reopen. Barbershops and beauticians are predominantly minority. They are the population most at risk right now."
How California is Enlisting Star Residents for Stay-at-Home PSAs (The Hollywood Reporter, April 22)
Georges C. Benjamin, the long-serving executive director of the American Public Health Association, says celebrities offer credibility, which is why they're able to influence public behavior...He says because the pandemic is a global crisis, there is a need to accurately communicate vital health information and counter that disinformation to every human on the planet...
"Our world has changed," Benjamin says. "We are in a communication world where every individual is their own radio, TV, Twitter and YouTube producer. Celebrities have always been willing to step up to the plate for global catastrophes, whether it's hurricanes, fires or famine, and this allows them to do that. There is a need for better education around this virus because it's so fast-moving. Like all of us, they bring their strengths and weaknesses to the table, but they have one of the biggest bullhorns in the world, which I always find fascinating and exciting. For me, it shows their contributions and commitment to humanity."
How Many Health Care Workers are Sick with Coronavirus? No One Knows (NY1, April 21)
“Everyone is having challenges getting data but it would be really important to get occupational data to the extent you can,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association. “That would help us target and track, and focus efforts around education, looking for deficits in our work infrastructure and that’s particularly important for health.”
The resumption of NBA season might rely on protocols not yet available (Los Angeles Times, April 20)
Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Assn., said the NBA would “have to avoid at all costs” the optics of reserving an untold number of tests, and the personal protective equipment and medical professionals to conduct them, if such resources are not yet widely available.
“Whatever they do, they have to have a plan and look at what is happening in the rest of the world,” Benjamin said. “… I’m sure most of the players believe they have a community obligation to protect the community.”
'These Numbers Take Your Breath Away': Why Black Americans Are Dying from COVID-19 at Alarming Rates (Courier Newsroom, April 20)
“If you’re in one of those states that did not expand Medicaid, you don’t have equal access to health insurance or access to care,” Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told COURIER....
Black individuals work in the healthcare and personal care fields, which lead to exposure to potentially sick people.
“In many of these communities, the people most impacted, particularly minorities, are public-facing,” Benjamin said. “They’re the ones that are working in skilled nursing homes, they’re bus drivers, they’re in the grocery stores. There are many people in the service industry that are still working today and then you have the challenge, for many of these folks, they’re having to use public transportation, so they’re still out in the public domain going to work.”
'Tuskegee always looms in our minds': Some fear black Americans, hardest hit by coronavirus, may not get vaccine (USA Today, April 19)
More African Americans are likely to get the coronavirus vaccine if adverse effects are reduced, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association and a former Maryland and D.C. health commissioner.That will be aided if African Americans participate in the research for drugs and vaccines, he said...
“What is most important is for people of all races to have equal access to vaccines since we're not going to go back to normality until we have an effective vaccine," Benjamin said.
Experts Worry Politics Will Guide Voters' Virus Precautions (U.S. News & World Report, April 18)
That's prompting concern by public health professionals that voters will use partisan lenses to decide which policymakers they heed as communities consider easing restrictions that have smothered normal life — a potentially dangerous dynamic.
“You’ll get more people sick and run the risk of more people dying, because you’ll have such confusion because people won’t know what to do,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, which represents professionals and organizations in the field. “They’ll selectively pick the advice that aligns with their ideology.”
Contract Tracing Shortage Could Strain Efforts to Reopen Economy (U.S. News & World Report, April 17)
The first step to rapidly building such a workforce is to identify people with backgrounds in public health or health care and steer them toward contact tracing, says Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. That could include disease investigation specialists, epidemiologists, public health nurses, community health workers and other personnel who are retired or could be redeployed...
Because the virus is so contagious – each sick person infects about two others, and many are asymptomatic – it's crucial that people who may have been exposed are identified, notified and quarantined as quickly as possible, he says.
"We needed to start yesterday," Benjamin says. "There's an urgency to doing this."
ICE tactics to limit spread of COVID-19 in detention centers stir controversy (Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, April 16)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, said if La Palma has no new cases after 14 days of its last positive test, the virus may be under control.
“But the risk is still there – especially if they don’t have a lot of testing,” Benjamin said. “The rest of us don’t have adequate access to tests – I would wonder how they would.”
Benjamin said he was concerned to hear about the rising number of cases in the Florence Detention Center, where confirmed COVID-19 cases went from two to six in a matter of days, “which tells you they are two weeks behind the outbreak already.”
Big Brother Wants to Track Your Location and Health Data. And That's Not All Bad. (Kaiser Health News, April 16)
Ideally, the information could be useful to public health departments, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
While he has no problem with public health officials getting data ― after all, laws already require reporting of infectious diseases to try to thwart outbreaks — he cited potential privacy problems if it’s a commercial venture doing the gathering.
Senate Democrats Push for Better Federal Response and More $$ for COVID-19 Testing (MedPage Today, April 16)
Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association, also on the call, said: "Clearly testing has been inadequate so far. It's given us very, very limited information on the scope of this disease in our population."
"Testing is an essential public health component of any opportunity we have to return to work or play," said Benjamin. "Testing will tell us who has the disease, who has had the disease, who is at risk of getting the disease ... and help us understand the prevalence of the disease in the community. That, coupled with knowing how many people are sick, and tracking how many people die, will allow us to ultimately open up our community and society back to near normal, and also will tell us how close we are to herd immunity."
Trump wants to reopen America in a few weeks. In internal documents, federal health officials warn the bar to do so safely may be too high (USA Today, April 15)
The chronically underfunded U.S. public health infrastructure is combatting the new coronavirus outbreak after shedding 50,000 workers since the 2008 recession, according to a survey of state and local health departments cited by the American Public Health Association in an article for StatNews.
U.S. conservatives who detest climate models add a new target: coronavirus models (Science Magazine and Scientific American courtesy E&E News, April 15)
The last few weeks are proof that modeling works, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. Without their guidance, more people would have died, more economic harm would have occurred and greater health care cost burdens would have been placed on the system, he said.
"The models become even more important now because we're going to need to know when we should adjust our reopening," he said. "We're going to need these models to help us know, as some kind of early warning, when we should stop and pause or pull back a little bit, because if we don't, what will happen is we will get too far down the line and things will get much worse before they get better."
WBO Champion Terence Crawford Says Coronavirus Is a Media-Driving Conspiracy: 'They're Using Fear to Try to Control Us' (Newsweek, April 15)
Like many other conspiracy theories, the claims have been swiftly debunked by scientists.
"COVID-19 is caused by a virus that came through a natural animal source and has no relation to 5G, or any radiation linked to technology," Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said last week.
Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Georges Benjamin, MD (April 15)
"We continue to throw a lot of money into the system when something bad like this happens. And then as soon as it goes way, we allow the infrastructure to go away."
US hospitals are inundated. Some foreign-born workers are blocked from helping (ABS/CBN News, April 14)
Underutilized foreign-trained professionals have valuable linguistic and cultural skills that could be put to use, said José Ramón Fernández-Peña, president-elect of the American Public Health Association, and a doctor now advising students at Northwestern University.
They could consult with patients over the phone or by video, screen patients at hospitals or work at testing sites, and help with case management on the data side, he suggested.
Because these professionals might also speak the languages of underserved populations, he said, “we could reach the communities that are typically served last.”
Pandemic Preparation (Ozarks Tonight, April 13)
"We absolutely need to build a public health system for the future." -- APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD
As the going gets tough, America returns to experts for help (Associated Press, April 12)
Says Benjamin: "We've finally taught the nation about public health and science, and I'm hoping we can build on that."
What flaws in the U.S. healthcare system has the coronavirus pandemic exposed? (The Gazette, April 12)
In this country, two-thirds of people who file for bankruptcy cite medical issues as a key contributor to their financial downfall. An estimated 530,000 families turn to bankruptcy each year because of medical expenses, according to the American Journal of Public Health. Half a million human beings are financially devastated because we are too stubborn to recognize that health care is a human right.
Experts Explain How Making Art While You're Stuck at Home Can Help Mental Health (All World Report, April 12)
Science backs it up. A review of studies on art and health published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2010 found that doing some form of artistic activity improves wellbeing and feelings of self-worth, relieves symptoms of anxiety and depression, and reduces stress.
Politics mixes with science as states turn to virus models (Associated Press, April 11)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said some public officials tend to act according to what “politically plays the best” instead of “following the science.”
“It’s good to have optimistic models, but I prefer to be more of a pessimist when you don’t know what’s going,” Benjamin said.
A fight over data infiltrates Trumpworld's response to coronavirus (Politico, April 10)
“It’s called science,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “And it’s called dealing with a brand-new disease, which you have absolutely no knowledge about. And people are learning on the fly.”
Scientists say models have been limited by the scant availability of data with a fast-moving virus, and from weak testing and surveillance in the United States — what Benjamin called the efforts’ “Achilles’ heel.”
“The more people politicize this,” he said, “the more trust they ruin, the less trust people have and the harder it will be to do the next time this happens.”
Coronavirus is disproportionately killing the black community. Here's what experts say can be done about it (ABC News, April 9)
Benjamin drew parallels to how he witnessed the AIDS and opioid epidemics affect black communities as a frontline physician in the '80s.
“I was around in the early days of the AIDS epidemic and watched that one ravage communities… and even how the opioid epidemic ravaged communities of color”, he said. He noted that outbreaks devastating communities of color have been a repeated theme throughout history.
Black People are Disproportionately Getting and Dying from COVID-19 (US News & World Report, April 7)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, says the pandemic has pulled back the curtain on social inequities and health care disparities – problems that usually aren't revealed in real time, or under such a harsh national spotlight.
"We have always known that we've had these enormous social determinants that impact health and create an unequal society," he says. "I'm not surprised that we have had these enormous disparities in illness and deaths from COVID-19. They exist for everything else."
African Americans may be dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate. Better data is essential, experts say (NBC News, April 7)
Releasing racial and ethnic data needs to be an important priority for public health officials, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association. Data can help states and the federal government decide where to focus their attention.
"If we're serious about making sure that we improve the health of our populations," he said, "then we will focus like a laser on those populations that we know historically are more at risk."
Coronavirus Disease Discriminates. Our Health Care Doesn't Have To (Newsweek, April 7)
Communities of color should not be "sacrifice zones" with regard to the COVID-19 response. One wonders about the decision to disembark infected persons from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Oakland Bay rather than in San Francisco Bay, noting that Oakland has a much higher population of color. Or about the decision to convert Carney Hospital in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston to be the country's first hospital devoted to the care of COVID-19 patients, depriving that predominantly black neighborhood of access to other medical services and possibly increasing the risk of infection in the area.
Long-standing racial and income disparities seen creeping into COVID-19 care (Modern Healthcare, April 6)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, has been pushing health officials to start monitoring race and income in the response to COVID-19.
"We want people to collect the data in an organized, professional, scientific manner and show who's getting it [appropriate care] and who's not getting it," Benjamin said. "Recognize that we very well may see these health inequities."
Trump says hospitals will be paid for treating uninsured coronavirus patients (New York Times, April 3)
Consumer groups and public health experts said paying hospitals for uncompensated care would not help the millions of Americans who are now without coverage.
“It’s a failure, a fundamental failure, to understand how people get care,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association in Washington. He says the focus on paying hospitals for coronavirus patients doesn’t help doctors treat people, including those without the virus, outside of the hospital to lessen the burden on emergency rooms and hospital staff.
Social distancing works, but resistance prompts worries of growing crisis (The Hill, April 3)
Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said it is clear that social distancing measures are working, but he is concerned that the entire country is not following them.
“It worked in California, in Seattle, that's great. ... We are a very mobile country and there are still places where they are not doing physical distancing at all,” Benjamin said.
The Coronavirus Doesn't Discriminate. U.S. Health Care May Be a Different Story (WVPB-FM, April 1)
FARMER: Nationwide, it's difficult to know how minority populations are faring because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isn't reporting any data on race. Dr. Georges Benjamin has been pushing the CDC to start monitoring race and income in the response to COVID-19. He leads the American Public Health Association.
GEORGES BENJAMIN: We want people to collect the data in an organized, professional, scientific manner and show who's getting it and who's not getting it and recognize in that we may very well see these health inequities.
FARMER: Benjamin says until he's convinced otherwise, he assumes the usual disparities are at play.
BENJAMIN: Experience has taught all of us if you're poor, if you're of color, you're going to get services second.