To help counteract the "infodemic" of misinformation and rumors, APHA has been giving expert commentary and background during the COVID-19 pandemic. A few highlights:
With Omicron, a Chance for a Public Health Reboot (Governing, Dec. 7)
“The number of people that are really dead set against what we’re doing and proposing is smaller than people think, but have a bigger megaphone and a short, pithy message,” says Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
Colleges are Starting to Require COVID-19 Booster Shots (The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec. 6)
Equity lens for COVID-19 shots critical amid holidays and omicron concern, experts say (USA Today, Dec. 3)
Public health v. freedom of choice: How the courts might view state's new COVID laws (The Nashville Ledger, Dec. 3)
GOP sets back Biden vaccine mandate (The Hill, Dec. 2)
"These efforts are both irresponsible and they're serving as a barrier to getting people vaccinated,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
Omicron? Many Americans give it a shrug (Los Angeles Times, Dec. 1)
“Really too early to tell what it means,” said Georges Benjamin, [executive director] of the American Public Health Association. “The fact that it has so many mutations is of real concern, but it will depend on how easily it evades the vaccine, if at all.”
Maryland, nation keep watch for omicron, but the message is the same: Get vaccinated and boosted (Baltimore Sun, Nov. 30)
“If the governor and president are calling for vaccinations and boosters now, that’s the right message,” [APHA Executive Director Georges] Benjamin said. “Viruses mutate; this is what they do. If we’re serious about stopping it, we have to get everyone vaccinated.”
Medical professionals consider AI to address chronic health conditions in the midst of COVID-19 (Fortune, Nov. 16)
Dr. Benjamin reminded the panel that the pandemic also “wore out the medical community.” This past September alone, 589,000 people left the healthcare profession, in line with the wave of workers quitting their jobs in what’s been coined the ever-growing Great Resignation.
A solution? We already have the technology to combat both burnout and patient anxiety, Dr. Benjamin said. Telemedicine has been around for at least 50 years, and both remote psychiatry and surgery are possible.
Racial disparities in kids' vaccinations are hard to track (Associated Press, Nov. 15)
But federal, state and local systems for tracking public health data are still limited and underfunded, including tracking data for racial disparities in child vaccines, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
“We’ve not invested in the data system that we absolutely need to have for public health,” Benjamin said. “That is the fundamental failure of this system.”
Thousands of kids 5 to 11 vaccinated against COVID-19 in Maryland in first few days (Baltimore Sun, Nov. 9)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said parents may believe COVID-19 isn’t serious in children, so there is no rush. But he said the disease can be severe, and also new data shows that children can pass the more contagious delta variant of the virus to other family members even if they are fully vaccinated.
Employers may still foot COVID-19 testing bills if mandate stands (Politico, Nov. 9)
“It's going to be a burden on the testing system; we're going to run into test shortages,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “It's going to be an administrative burden that will foster more people getting vaccinated just because of the hassle.”
Business lobby calls for administration to 'pump the brakes' on vaccine mandate (The Hill, Oct. 26)
But Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, said the requirement will overall help businesses keep functioning amid any local outbreaks in the upcoming months.
“This is not a barrier to getting good business done,” he said. “This was actually ... a business friendly proposition.”
The Airline Vaccine Mandate Question (Morning Consult, Oct. 21)
“We support it strongly,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “I’ve always tried to encourage people first, but at some point if you have to mandate, you have to mandate, and we’re there.”
U.S. battles COVID-19 (CGTN, Oct. 9)
APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD: "We're going to have to make a very, very, very compelling case for the importance of getting children vaccinated."
HHS says COVID-19 vaccinations may have saved 1,000 lives in Arizona (Cronkite News, Oct. 8)
“It shows very clearly that the vaccine works, and that in this particular case seniors really benefited from being vaccinated, especially early,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
COVID-19 deaths eclipse 700,000 as delta variant rages (Associated Press, Oct. 2)
The death toll stood about 570,000 in April when every adult American became eligible for shots.
“I remember when we broke that 100,000-death mark, people just shook their heads and said ‘Oh, my god,’” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “Then we said, ‘Are we going to get to 200,000?’ Then we kept looking at 100,000-death marks,” and finally surpassed the estimated 675,000 American deaths from the 1918-19 flu pandemic.
“And we’re not done yet,” Benjamin said.
CDC panel endorses Pfizer booster shot for elderly, high-risk people (Politico, Sept. 23)
Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said the committee took a reasonable approach given the evolving science.
"They really wanted to get it right, because it opens up the door to a whole range of folks that they're just not quite sure whether or not the data is there to support it," he said.
Del Rio bridge shantytown could result in COVID-19 outbreak (Washington Examiner, Sept. 23)
Public health officials may have to worry about more than just COVID-19 among the Haitians in Del Rio, according to Georges Benjamin, executive director at the American Public Health Association.
Biden Releases a New Plan to Combat COVID, But Experts Say There's Still a Ways to Go (Physician's Weekly, Sept. 20)
And the mandate might prove less objectionable for some unvaccinated adults, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, because the employer becomes the enforcer.
“The person telling them what to do is their boss at their job,” he said. “That’s a different leverage point than the government.”
Stop Calling It a 'Pandemic of the Unvaccinated' (The Atlantic, Sept. 16)
The American Public Health Association’s executive director, Georges C. Benjamin, has warned that Biden’s latest mandate might cause Americans to “dig in and bristle at being told what to do.”
New U.S. vaccine requirements draw praise, skepticism and outrage (New York Times, Sept. 9)
Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said the actions might be “too little, too late,” and warned that Americans opposed to vaccination might dig in and bristle at being told what to do.
Getting to the Bottom of It: Preventing coronavirus on campus (The GW Hatchet podcast, Aug. 30)
Alec Rich speaks with Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, about the threat of the Delta variant and coronavirus on campus.
More states embrace vax passports without waiting for Biden (Politico, Aug. 29)
Public health officials say fake cards could undermine public confidence in vaccines, if there are outbreaks in places where documentation is required. “If someone has false documentation then uses that, you can be sure that the first rumor will be that that's a breakthrough infection,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
Why States With the Lowest Median Incomes Have the Lowest Vaccination Rates (Money, Aug. 26)
The statistics are not particularly surprising to public health experts. "We know that income is a social determiner of health," says Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA). "Wealth actually correlates with health."
Among children, older teens are seeing the highest COVID-19 case rates (CNN, Aug. 26)
There are several factors that help explain why teens have higher COVID-19 case rates: the Delta variant is highly transmissible and they are more likely to interact with others, especially throughout the summer, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told CNN on Wednesday. Among eligible groups, teens are also the least likely to be vaccinated.
"The simple answer is -- you have a virus that's highly infectious. It's going to spread to the people who are most vulnerable, and that's going to be the people who are least likely to be vaccinated," Benjamin said. "And it's still true that the younger people are still least likely to be vaccinated."
COVID data disappearing in Georgia, other states despite latest surge (Georgia Health News, Aug. 26)
Public health experts are voicing concern about the pullback of Covid information. Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, called the trend “not good for government and the public” because it gives the appearance of governments “hiding stuff.”
Experts hope FDA's full Pfizer vaccine OK boosts Arizona vaccinations (KTAR News, Aug. 24)
“We believe that this will make a big difference for some people, for whom this license was an important last step in the decision-making process,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
Surge in COVID-19 puts state on pace to hit 1 million cases next week (AZ Mirror, Aug. 23)
Despite the surge in new cases, health experts said that Arizona continues to lack aggressive mitigation efforts that they said could stem the tide.
“For some time, you certainly haven’t been as aggressive with mask-wearing and vaccination,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said of the state.
Vaccine Effectiveness, Booster Shots & More: Breaking Down the Latest COVID News (The Brian Lehrer Show, Aug. 19)
Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association, discusses the latest COVID news, from the rise in delta variant cases to the distribution of booster shots.
Masks are a Must-Have to Go Back to School during the Delta Variant Surge (Scientific American, Aug. 19)
“The most powerful tool we have now is vaccination, and those students 12 and up who can be should be vaccinated,” says Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
Public Health Struggles With Pandemic and Politics (Governing, Aug. 19)
The frustration may be even greater at the local level, due to the decline in their authority. “The burnout level is high,” says Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “People are very stressed. They’re still receiving threats from the public.”
If the Unvaccinated Want to Work, They Face a Series of Hurdles (Kaiser Health News, Aug. 19)
Employers hope the hassles required to remain unvaccinated in the workplace will encourage the reluctant to just get a vaccine. “It’s a forceful nudge,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
Addressing vaccine fears as Latinos fall behind in COVID-19 vaccinations (ABC News, Aug. 13)
“Chisme mata,” said [APHA President Jose Ramon Fernandez-Pena], which means “gossip kills” in Spanish. He and other health experts warned against believing posts, articles and memes from non-reputable sources.
Black people, with low vaccination rates, stand to be shut out disproportionately by mandates (Washington Examiner, Aug. 10)
"There is a risk that people of color who were not vaccinated might be disproportionately denied services because of [vaccine mandates]," said Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association. "The solution to that, of course, is to get vaccinated."
Fact check: Hospital staff near max capacity, but COVID-19 isn't business as usual (USA Today, Aug. 9)
"It is true that hospitals are often overcrowded (in) both ICUs and ERs," Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told USA TODAY in an email. "The difference is that they don’t have patients in the hallways waiting for ICU beds in the volume that we have today because of COVID.
Public health leaders urge private sector to create #COVIDSafeZones (Healthcare Finance, Aug. 6)
"This is very much a mystery in progress": Scientists explain everything we know about delta so far (Salon, Aug. 5)
"The impact is mostly seen in the parts of the country where vaccination level are low," [APHA Executive Director Georges] Benjamin emphasized, noting that vaccinated people are still "largely protected from infection, severe illness and death."
As case numbers rise, so does demand for COVID testing (Bay News 9, Aug. 5)
"The good news is that we certainly have better access to testing, both the PCR testing, the antigen testing, and some communities are now beginning to even do the at-home test - not available everywhere. So, testing in general should not be a problem," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, about the nationwide increase in demand.
Maryland Gov. Hogan not considering reinstating statewide mask mandate as some counties tighten guidance (Baltimore Sun, Aug. 3)
[APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin] said he would encourage Hogan to team up with Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam “and tell the public that we are moving back to universal masking as a preventive tool for hopefully a short period of time, because cases are rising.”
Link between cases and deaths greatly weakened in delta surge (Washington Examiner, Aug. 1)
“The fact that 57% of the population has gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, that acts as a breaker on a more robust outbreak,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director at the American Public Health Association.
Vaccine Hesitancy (The Community Word, July 29)
In a recent panel discussion hosted by the National Press Foundation, Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said, “The easy work is done. Now we have to root out the misinformation.”
For a safe return to school, children must be vaccinated (Boston Globe, July 29)
Across the country there is a troubling pattern: Children in counties with low vaccination rates are at increased risk of getting infected. While there are pockets of vaccinated children living in highly vaccinated counties, the majority are unvaccinated and may be living with unvaccinated adults.
Fauci joins YouTube coronavirus special aimed at Black community (The Hill, July 27)
In the approximately nine-minute long video, posted to the American Public Health Association's YouTube channel, the doctors and Fauci discuss the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine and address vaccine hesitancy in Black and brown communities.
Biden team weighs return to mask mandates in some states (Politico, July 26)
Georges Benjamin, head of the American Public Health Association, said he expects the VA to be the first of several agencies to impose mandates, including the Department of Defense.
California and NYC Public Employees, As Well As VA Health Workers, Have New Vaccine Mandates (BuzzFeed News, July 26)
“Universal vaccination of health care workers is the single most important step healthcare institutions can do to stop the spread of COVID-19," said Georges C. Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association. "It is essential for protecting the health of their workers, the safety of their patients, and ultimately the health of their communities.”
'A tipping point': Government officials, health groups move to require coronavirus vaccines for workers (The Washington Post, July 26)
The flurry of activity kicked off on Monday morning, when medical groups representing millions of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health workers issued a statement urging mandatory vaccinations for all U.S. health personnel, framing the move as a moral imperative as new infections mount.
“The health and safety of U.S. workers, families, communities, and the nation depends on it,” the American Pharmacists Association, the American Public Health Association and 55 other groups wrote in the statement.
The move represented an increasingly tough stance by the medical and public health establishment amid the sluggish pace of national vaccinations.
AMA, 56 Other Groups Back Mandatory COVID Vax for Healthcare Workers (MedPage Today, July 26)
"Universal vaccination of healthcare workers is the single most important step healthcare institutions can do to stop the spread of COVID-19. It is essential for protecting the health of their workers, the safety of their patients and ultimately the health of their communities," Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association, which also co-signed, said in a statement
McConnell pushes vaccines, but GOP muddles his message (The Hill, July 23)
“He could have provided a leadership role, he could have pulled his caucus into the back room and said, ‘You guys need to get on board here.’ He did not do that," said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “He had the opportunity to lead his party. And had he done so, I think that we would have a much different outcome than we're seeing today in communities that have heard these negative messages."
White house boosts funding for COVID tests as infections continue to surge (NBC News, July 22)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said: "Everybody in public health recognizes that we're moving into a spot in which we had been at the beginning of the pandemic, where you need adequate testing. We're going to be testing again, and in much larger numbers."
COVID Drove Biggest Drop in U.S. Life Expectancy Since World War II (U.S. News & World Report, July 21)
According to Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, "In many ways, the report tells us the profound impact of COVID, not only just direct COVID deaths, but of course, on other diseases that probably were exacerbated. Losing a year of life expectancy is a big, big deal."
Delta variant now accounts for more than 8 in 10 COVID-19 cases (Yahoo News, July 20)
“There is a simple public message: Get vaccinated or get COVID,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director at the American Public Health Association, told the Washington Examiner recently.
The Check Up: Dr. Georges Benjamin (Modern Healthcare, July 19)
"You have to not only be clear about the message but also about the messenger. And we have to kind of normalize vaccination in our country. It's become, as you said, a political football."
'These Kids Will Die': Health Experts Sound Alarm Over TN Shutting Down Vaccine Outreach to Minors (TPM, July 15)
Without the Tennessee Department of Health providing much-needed education on vaccines, “these kids will die,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), told TPM in a phone interview. “Too many Tennessean kids will die.”
How mask shaming affects immunocompromised people (ABC News, July 14)
Precautions such as masks and social distancing re still important methods to contain the spread of the virus, according to Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association.
“Every time you give up those layers, you'll increase your risk of getting exposed, getting infected and then, depending on your body, getting severely sick,” Benjamin said.
A pandemic without an end: How systemic racism is hampering vaccine uptake (Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism, July 14)
As Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, admitted in April: “We overstated the hesitancy issue” and “understated the structural access issues”.
New York takes conservative approach counting virus deaths (Associated Press, July 13)
“We need to make sure we get it right, and people understand what the numbers are. And how we’re using them so they can’t be misused by people who have a motive to misuse them,” said Georges Benjamin, a physician and executive director at the American Public Health Association.
Nurses ask CDC to reinstate universal masking rule (Modern Healthcare, July 13)
COVID-19 put the spotlight on health disparities between groups, shows how wide the gap was before the pandemic (CBS-17, July 9)
“It’s a range of things, looking at the social determinants of health,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, one of the organizations that worked on the report, said.
He continued, “Those are the things that can help you become more healthy, or can impede your health.”
Life Lessons From the Pandemic (Consumer Reports, July 8)
“We learned a lot about the ability to telework and still get the work done,” says Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA). “The technology exists to do it effectively.”
Reports of Some Getting Pfizer, Moderna 'Boosters' after J&J Vaccine Prompts Calls for More Guidance (U.S. News & World Report, July 1)
But [APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin] doesn't recommend that clinicians go ahead and mix doses. Instead, he urges them to continue to follow CDC and FDA guidance, lest a patient get seriously sick or injured, opening clinicians up to liability. Instead, dose mixing should only be performed under clinical trials, he says.
House Lawmakers Eager to Boost Vaccine Uptake, Quash Hesitancy (MedPage Today, July 1)
America needs a "shoe-leather public-health" approach to address vaccine hesitancy, one focused on vulnerable communities, especially those of color, said Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association and Maryland's former Secretary of Health.