"People need to be informed, but not afraid"

Ali Velshi interviewing Georges Benjamin on MSNBC

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:

We need a science-based plan for vaccine distribution (The Hill, Jan. 22)
APHA member Lyndon Haviland, DrPH, MPH: "We must listen to the science that brought us to this moment. The data shows we have two highly viable vaccines that are proven to be effective as long as they are administered to people under specified timing guidelines. We must trust the process and follow that plan."

To get vaccines to more people, the priority system needs to loosen up (Popular Science, Jan. 21)
But if the priority system was clearer and there was more national guidance on how to structure vaccination programs, [APHA Executive Director Georges] Benjamin says, the process of getting the vaccine to those at highest risk first would be simpler, resulting in fewer unclaimed doses — and fewer cases and deaths.

“The first thing we have to do is clarify and rationalize the priority system,” he says. “We would have been better off if the federal government gave us more specific guidance.”

Joe Biden will inherit Donald Trump's COVID legacy — how will he handle it? (ITV, Jan. 20)
"We are still going to have a federal, state and local partnership," commented Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the nonprofit American Public Health Association. “I just think there is going to be better guidance from the federal government and they are going to work more collaboratively with the states.”

Más de 400,000 muertes por covid-19 en EEUU: ¿Cómo llegamos hasta aquí? (Univision, Jan. 20)
Para el presidente de la Asociación Estadounidense de Salud Pública José Ramón Fernánez Peña y muchos otros expertos en la materia, la respuesta prácticamente tiene nombre y apellido.

“En lugar de poner a la gente que sabe y darle las conficiones para guiar una respuesta nacional, Donald Trump optó por tener una respuesta política basada en falsedades inadecuadas”, dice en conversación con Univision Noticias donde recalca que “uno de los problemas más importantes ha sido la falta de liderazgo de la Casa Blanca.”

Black Americans are getting vaccinated at lower rates than white Americans (Kaiser Health News, Jan. 17)
"That's what structural racism looks like," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “Those groups were seen and not heard — nobody thought about it.”

Biden Nominees, Vaccine Plan Elevate Science in Trump Contrast (Bloomberg Law, Jan. 16)
Georges E. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, who has met with Biden’s incoming health leaders, offered these exact recommendations during a Research!America webinar Jan. 14.

“An all hands-on-deck, full response is important. We’ve got FEMA. We’ve got the National Guard and the military that we need to get involved in this,” Benjamin said, adding that there needs to be two million to three million vaccinations a day to reach herd immunity by early summer.

'We're In A War With This virus:' Biden Lays Out COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan (NPR, Jan. 15)
The American Rescue Plan is ambitious not just in its spending goals but also in its intent to mitigate the pandemic's rippling effects, says Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

"There's funding here to empower people to be able to stay home [if they're sick], to get kids back in the school. There's money here to support the economy, to get workers back to work. When you couple that with these health interventions [such as testing and contact tracing], this is really a way forward," Benjamin says.

Overwhelmed, More States Turn to National Guard for Vaccine Help (New York Times, Jan. 14)
“All hands on deck are important,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association. “But I think you have to be realistic, though, about the Guard’s ability. We have to be careful that we are not expecting them to bring more medical assets than they can to the table. Guard members are working in hospitals and pharmacies already detailed to provide services for Covid.”

Here's why we can have some hope about the COVID pandemic (WTVA News, Jan. 14)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, agreed. "We can see a light at the end of the tunnel," he said, adding that vaccines "show us a way forward."

Multiple coronavirus strains are now circulating. Here's what that means (Salon, Jan. 10)
"These viruses mutate frequently, and sometimes those changes have no big deal at all, and sometimes they change so they either become more likely to be able to attach to your body or they can escape the vaccine because they changed their shape so that the vaccine doesn't recognize it," [APHA Executive Director Georges] Benjamin explained. If that happens, we may have to follow the example we already use in treating the flu — a virus that changes every year, Benjamin said, just enough so that a new vaccine is needed.

The Actual Death Toll From the Pro Trump Riot Won't be Known for Weeks (The New Republic, Jan. 7)
The physicality of Wednesday’s mob further escalated the risk. “Shouting and yelling and huffing and puffing and climbing walls and getting into buildings, that increases the spread as well,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association and the former health commissioner of Washington, D.C., told me.

A Slow Start to COVID-19 Vaccines has the FDA Facing Calls to Change Shot Schedules (Buzzfeed News, Jan. 7)
“They are behind, by their own projections, they are behind,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “The truth of the matter is we always expected some shake out, these are complicated vaccines. But all of this pointing to us needing to move to a much more rapid pace of administering shots.”

Why vaccines are being wasted in the United States (Salon, Jan. 7)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told Salon that "all of this is part of our learning curve. This is a complex vaccine, [but] the shot itself is not a big deal. You draw it up, defrost it, either dilute it or just draw it up and then you inject it. It isn't that isn't complicated."

Vaccine Mistrust and How to Overcome It (On Point, NPR Boston, Jan. 5)
APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD: "There are people out there who still believe the vaccine causes a lot of problems...We have to do a better job of educating."

"You have to be persistent, and you have to talk to people where they are."

Mental health is one of the biggest pandemic issues we'll face in 2021 (CNN, Jan. 4)
"The physical aspects of the pandemic are really visible," said Lisa Carlson, the immediate past president of the American Public Health Association and an executive administrator at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "We have supply shortages and economic stress, fear of illness, all of our disrupted routines, but there's a real grief in all of that."

"We don't have a vaccine for our mental health like we do for our physical health," Carlson added. "So, it will take longer to come out of those challenges."

COVID in 2021: Experts predict when and what American industries will return to normal (The Independent, Jan. 1)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive [director] of the American Public Health Association, said future scenarios for what 2021 could look like would depend on “effective public health response of testing, contact tracing, isolation, quarantine and vaccination.”

How the U.S. Could Ramp Up Vaccination Against the Coronavirus (NPR's All Things Considered, Dec. 30)
APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD: "At the end of the day, it's all about having enough vaccine to get shots in arms. We know how to do this."

As year-end approaches, vaccine rollout woefully behind schedule (CNN, Dec. 29)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, laid out three major reasons for issues around distribution: vaccine supply, inadequate infrastructure and communication.

Head of the American Public Health Association on mutations: We're prepared (MSNBC, Dec. 27)
APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD: "So far the evidence is that the vaccine probably will still work. We're pretty clear about that."

Vaccine Rollout Presenting States With Questions Over Race and Access (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 25)

'Trusted Messengers, Trusted Messages': How to Overcome Vaccine Hesitancy (NPR, Dec. 24)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, the long-time executive director of the American Public Health Association, says today's public health workers would do well to borrow a strategy that helped stem the AIDS epidemic: tailoring the message to different constituencies. In that case, the health message first focused on safe sex in the gay community, he notes, and then, a couple of years later, added messaging on the risk of IV drug use as the virus moved into the heterosexual community.

A Maryland county offered antibody tests to all its employees. It learned its COVID precautions are working. (Baltimore Sun, Dec. 24)
Because COVID-19 is new, scientists do not yet know how long the antibodies last or how protective they are against the virus, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association and a former Maryland health secretary.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re immune,” Benjamin said. “We’re still telling people you’ve got to wear masks, wash your hands and keep your distance.”

US officials promised 20 million vaccinated against coronavirus by the end of the year. It's going slower than that. (CNN, Dec. 23)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, is more optimistic with the rollout, saying so far, it has gone "reasonably well." He does hope the incoming Biden administration is thinking about how to get accurate numbers to states to set expectations for Americans about when life can return to normal.

Combatting Black Americans' vaccine hesitancy (The Brian Lehrer Show, Dec. 23)
The CDC says communities of color are a “critical population” to vaccinate. But what actionable steps are states taking to make sure Black Americans aren't overlooked? Caroline Chen, health care reporter for ProPublica, discusses her reporting, and Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, talks about what public health officials should do.

NBC logo, Coming Up Facts Over Fear

MORE NEWS COVERAGE (December 2020)

Corporate America would like the vaccine now (Vox, Dec. 21)
"I don't blame businesses for trying to make their case," Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told Recode. “But the people that are listening to their rationale ought to use criteria that are going to save the most lives and return our economy.”

Inside the warehouse containing some of the nation's most critical supplies and vaccines (CNN, Dec. 20)
"They need to get a situational understanding of what's in it, what's on backorder, who they're contracting with," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. "They need to get a bird's eye view of the whole national situation — federal, state, local."

Health officials, social media scramble to fight vaccine misinformation (The Hill, Dec. 19)
“You have to acknowledge the historical wrongs that have happened. And then you need to expressively address those concerns,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Pharmacies' starring role in vaccine push could create unequal access (Politico, Dec. 18)
Cities and towns, along with businesses, should consider organizing transportation to vaccine sites for residents and employees, said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

“The private sector is going to have to participate in helping to do this,” Benjamin said. “They’re going to have to allow people the time off to go get vaccinated.”

Vaccinating Black Americans is Essential. Key States Aren't Doing the Work to Combat Hesitancy (ProPublica, Dec. 18)
“Media outreach is not enough,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “TV ads are one thing, but usually public service announcements are at midnight when nobody is listening, because that’s when they’re free.” Normally, public health officials go to barber shops, beauty salons, bowling alleys and other popular locales to hand out flyers and answer questions, but due to the pandemic and limits on congregating, that’s not an option, Benjamin said, so officials need to plan a serious social media strategy. That could involve partnering with “influencers” like sports figures and music stars by having them interview public health figures, Benjamin suggested.

Public health action plan urgently needed to stem the COVID-19 pandemic (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Dec. 18)
APHA Past Presidents Linda Degutis and Myron Aleukian: "Our haphazard and disjointed COVID-19 pandemic response is worsening this national catastrophe. Although vaccines provide a sense of light at the end of the tunnel, during the coming holiday weeks and winter months, we will experience the worst public health crisis of our lifetime."

What does success look like for the COVID-19 vaccine effort? (STAT, Dec. 15)
“I’m going to be watching to see if the average person who gets their vaccination finds that this is no big deal — no different from getting their flu shot, no different from getting their tetanus shot,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “We will know we won if that’s the case.”

Trump-Biden divide hampers COVID vaccine trust-building effort (Politico, Dec. 15)
“The best way for [Trump] to take credit for vaccinations is for him to support the scientists and the scientific process and let it play out to ensure people have confidence in the vaccine,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, head of the American Public Health Association.

Nevermind the political messenger, when it comes to COVID-19 guidance, trust the message, experts say (USA Today, Dec. 13)
Still, the actions of politicians can do "extraordinary damage," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director for the American Public Health Association.

“You lose the authority to be able to get people to do what you ask," Benjamin told USA TODAY. "It also undermines people’s belief that what you’re saying is real, so people don’t follow your advice because they don’t think you’re serious about it.”

Encouraging news about effective U.S. COVID-19 vaccine distribution (Al Jazeera, Dec. 12)
APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin: "Always getting vaccinations into people's arms is always difficult. But I believe this nation can do it."

'Way behind the curve': The messaging failures around coronavirus vaccine distribution (CNN, Dec. 11)
As videos of first Britons receiving the vaccine were replayed on televisions and cell phones across the United States this week, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said it was "one of those Sputnik moments."

"We're way behind the curve," Benjamin said, lamenting the lack of communication from the federal government. "We really need to begin very aggressively working to give people a better understanding of the vaccination needs and the trade-offs."

Biden health team takes shape as GOP weighs confirmation fight (Roll Call, Dec. 10)
Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, told CQ Roll Call that Biden’s selections reflect the array of issues a health secretary and other officials would need to address — not just COVID-19, but also opioid addiction, obesity, health insurance and gun violence, to name a few.

“The health system in the U.S. has enormous issues that have to be addressed,” he said. “What the president-elect has to do is put together a team that can deal with all those things comprehensively, but the most pressing issue right now is COVID.”

Public health officials fear Christmas coronavirus surge will be worse than Thanksgiving's (Washington Examiner, Dec. 10)
"We get together in situations where wearing a mask would be important, but people often don’t wear their mask, and we get closer to each other," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director at the American Public Health Association. "More exposure in an unprotected way will cause more cases."

Vaccine shortages have led to theft, smuggling and doses going to the famous instead of the needy. Will it happen again with COVID-19?(Chicago Tribune, Dec. 7)
APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD: "My biggest fear is not so much that too many celebrities will get it first,” he said. “Tragically, that’s going to happen. I just hope there’s not a lot of it. My biggest fear is the black market and the false market. I’m concerned about people fraudulently selling vaccine and people being defrauded by (phony promises).”

Biden's health team offers glimpse of his COVID-19 strategy (Associated Press, Dec. 6) and President-elect names health care team (AJC, Dec. 7)
“We are still going to have a federal, state and local partnership,” commented Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the nonprofit American Public Health Association. “I just think there is going to be better guidance from the federal government and they are going to work more collaboratively with the states.”

Biden reveals outgoing administration only has plan to distribute vaccine to states, not people (MSNBC, Dec. 5)
APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD: "We spent over $10 billion creating this amazing scientific discovery and we haven't put the money in place to actually make sure it happens."

Two very different colleges share how they kept COVID-19 off campus (Popular Science, Dec. 4)
Colleges’ case numbers have the potential to rise dramatically with holiday travel. “When you send students back out all over the country, the risk is higher when they come back,” says Georges Benjamin, a physician and the executive director of the American Public Health Association. That would be the case even if community transmission was low. But record-breaking case numbers over the past several weeks have raised the stakes for schools and their surrounding locales. For the remainder of the fall semester into the spring semester, campuses are going to have to rethink how they approach the pandemic, Benjamin says.

3.1K die in single day as COVID-19 infects 200K daily (Associated Press, Dec. 3)
Doctors are in demand, too.

“I don’t even practice anymore, and I’ve gotten lots of emails asking me to travel across the country to work in ERs,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

U.S. vaccine rollouts to managed on a state-by-state basis (Univision, Dec. 3)
There is intense debate across the country over equitable vaccine distribution: “We need very strong national guidelines and national programs in terms of distribution," says Dr. Camara Jones, former president of the American Public Health Association. She adds health care workers as well as workers in meatpacking plants, transportation, and grocery stores all need to considered.

How Safe is Eating at a Restaurant During the COVID-19 Pandemic? (Huffington Post, Dec. 1)
The greater the number of people, the more likely someone in the restaurant has the coronavirus. And, even if they don’t know it, they can spread it to others, said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

To improve ventilation, some restaurants have upgraded their HVAC systems or added air purifiers. Benjamin said these systems likely “help some,” though it’s hard to say how much, since the systems need time to fully filter the air to be effective.

Faulty Data Systems are Still Hampering Pandemic Response (Governing, Dec. 1)
After he became CDC director, Robert Redfield joked that he hadn’t realized he'd become a data archeologist. “With opioids, the nation couldn’t count the cases reliably or cross them with where the pills were or even with deaths,” says Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. 

MORE NEWS COVERAGE (November 2020)

The key to getting people to stick to COVID quarantines? Shorten them (Popular Science, Nov. 25)
The key is in communication, [APHA Executive Director Georges] Benjamin says. “The more we can refine [public-health guidance] and then articulate it in a way that everybody can understand, we’re much more likely to get better compliance. And if we get better compliance, at the end of the day we’ll get better disease control.” 

Why Even a Small Thanksgiving is Dangerous (FiveThirtyEight, Nov. 20)
That’s because no matter how much we try to pretend otherwise, COVID-19 is a disease you get from being around other people. Technically, the size of the group doesn’t matter, said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. What matters is the likelihood that one of those people comes to the table infected.

From Tuskegee to a COVID Vaccine: Diversity and Racism are Hurdles in Clinical Trials (U.S. News & World Report, Nov. 19)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, says diversity in clinical trials is important for two reasons.

"One is that it's just better science – you then get a better idea of how your drug or your vaccine or anything else works in a more representative population," particularly among people dealing with issues tied to social determinants of health, Benjamin says. "And the other aspect is, it helps with trust" among African Americans and other marginalized populations.

How to protect your mental health and fight 'COVID fatigue' this winter (MarketWatch, Nov. 17)
Plan a little “me” time, added Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association. Turn off the TV and try giving yourself some quiet time to think. “Nobody’s so busy they can’t carve out a few minutes for themselves, whether it’s their morning meditation or before you go to bed,” he said.

Pandemic Update: Coronavirus Case Numbers and Latest on a Vaccine (NPR, Nov. 16)
APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD: So I'm really concerned that we're going to begin going to what we call crisis standard of care, where we're going to have to make really, really tough medical decisions about patients. And I'm hoping we don't get there, but it really looks like that might very well be our future."

Georges Benjamin on the U.S. Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic (C-Span, Nov. 15)
"The solution to trying to contain this, and the word is contain, is well-established. It's wearing a mask, good hygiene by keeping your hands clean, keeping ourselves physically distant from one another, avoiding crowds, and then, of course when we get a vaccine that's safe and effective, we can add that..."

Pfizer's COVID Vaccine Has to Be Stored at -80C. There's Already a Run on Freezers (Slate,  Nov. 13)
“At warm temperatures it comes apart, dissolves itself, becomes useless,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “Just like if you had a piece of food out on the table for too long, or if you put ice cream out in hot weather.”

Maryland hospitals rush to buy ultra-cold freezers to provide COVID-19 vaccine a warm welcome (Baltimore Sun, Nov. 12)
There are not enough of them, nor likely stocks of dry ice for shipping vaccines to so many different places where they will be needed, said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

“It’s not a unknown logistical issue," said Benjamin, pointing to lack of refrigeration and other infrastructure in developing countries. "Having said that, the big issue is not how to move vaccines across the country by major shippers. It is how to move it from them to pharmacies, retail clinics, doctors offices, etc., and maintain the ultra cold environment.”

Biden Plans Sharp Change in Coronavirus Response (VOA, Nov. 10)
"The challenge we've had is that the administration in many ways has been very anti-science," said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. "And now you're going to have a response driven by science."

As cases rise, states say they'll work with Biden on virus (Associated Press, Nov. 9)
“Part of the problem with the response so far is that there really hasn’t been a testing plan, and a contract tracing plan and any kind of meaningful disease containment plan that all of us understood,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “We’ve been doing this, but it’s been pretty scattershot.”

U.S. surpasses 10 million coronavirus cases (Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Assn., called 10 million “a magic number — and a prelude to the hundreds of thousands more deaths we’re projecting.”

“Ten million cases in a 300-million population tells you we have a long way to go, and a lot more people at risk,” he said.

There Have Now Been More than 10 Million Cases of Coronavirus in the US (BuzzFeed News, Nov. 9)
“It’s a tragic milestone,” Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told BuzzFeed News. “And I think we’re all afraid that there’s going to be a rapid acceleration of what we’re seeing.”

How Biden Can Beat COVID-19 (New Republic, Nov. 8)
The good news is that Biden already has momentum, with a team of experts poised to put already-developed strategies in place during the transition. Assembling that team was the most important first step, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told me. “Initially, it’s all about leadership and organization. That’s extremely important here,” he said. “It starts, first of all, with having a coherent, organized incident command structure” that “defines who’s in charge.”

With attention on the election, COVID-19 numbers continue to surge (Boston Globe, Nov. 7)

The Affordable Care Act returns to the Supreme Court in the shadow of a pandemic (Washington Post, Nov. 7)
Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, noted that the law’s end would take away money from community health centers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and already strained rural hospitals.

Trump is Still the President, and the Pandemic is Getting Worse (New Republic, Nov. 7)
“I’m very worried,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told me. “We have a new confirmed infection every second and a death every 107 seconds. This disease is a wildfire going through the community,” he said, and it will “continue to explode over the next few months before it gets better.” But a stronger response from the U.S. government, now and in the future, could turn these trends around, experts say.

Election results underscore different views on coronavirus (The Hill, Nov. 6)
"People are making trade-off decisions between the economy and health, which was the wrong message, and of course the White House was very consistent with telling people it was your jobs or COVID and COVID wasn’t that bad,” [APHA Executive Director Georges] Benjamin added.

'Science was on the ballot': How can public health recover from a rebuke at the polls? (STAT, Nov. 4)
“We’re going to have to do some serious soul searching,” said Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, who insisted that public health officials don’t deserve the blame for the political backlash to their message, but can “play a big role in making sure that we come up with ways to deal with this in the future.”

How to combat 'COVID fatigue': Medical experts on what works and what doesn't (NBC News, Nov. 3)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, also emphasized that message.

"I remind people that there will be an end to this," he said. "It's continuously evolved, but it will end."

The US is facing it darkest months yet in the pandemic and the election may not help (CNN, Nov. 2)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said he hopes that means efforts to develop a vaccine infrastructure will be stepped up, but doesn't believe it will. "The Trump administration has shown they won't do anything," he said.

Trump has claimed, incorrectly, that doctors are inflating coronavirus death counts to get paid more; that the virus is less dangerous than the flu; that the US is "turning the corner" against the pandemic; and that the virus will simply "disappear." He's called supporters to crowded rallies and encouraged them to gather without precautions in conditions that public health experts point out are perfect for helping spread the virus. "This fatalism that they seem to be espousing -- it's just wrong," Benjamin told CNN. "You've got a President that is just running around like Typhoid Mary."

In Arizona, the coronavirus raged. With masks and other measures, it subsided. What can it teach America? (Washington Post, Nov. 2)
“The mask ordinances should stay in place until we get pretty wide distribution of the vaccine,” said Will Humble, a former state health department director who now leads the Arizona Public Health Association. “The return on investment is off the charts. The only thing that it costs is political capital.”

MORE NEWS COVERAGE (October 2020)

U.S. Surpasses 9 Million Virus Cases and Sets Another Daily Record (The World News, Oct. 30)
“We’re only one plane flight away from something very bad being transmitted from one country to another,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. Dr. Benjamin spoke at a webinar Thursday on the U.S. withdrawal plan that was sponsored by Physicians for Human Rights.

What You Need to Prepare for the COVID-19 Surge This Season (Houston Style Online, Oct. 30)
In addition to following safety guidance, part of that vigilance includes having the right kinds and amounts of foods and medical supplies stocked up to limit trips to stores.

"Any winter season can bring storms, power outages, delays in shipping of critical items to local or from online stores so knowing that you have all the provisions you need to manage these potential events is critical," said Susan L. Polan, the associate executive director of public affairs and advocacy at the American Public Health Association, via email. "COVID-19 surges and the flu can make trying to buy supplies harder — or riskier, if you or your family members are sick. You are going to want to do everything to make sure you and your loved ones are safe."

Pandemic depression is about to collide with seasonal depression — but making a plan can help, experts say (Washington Post, Oct. 27)
Lisa Carlson, president of the American Public Health Association, agrees. According to Carlson, seasonal depression is more common in people who have a history of depression. “It may be the people who are at risk of seasonal affective disorder may be the same people for whom COVID has already triggered depression,” she says. “So, we may have a lot of overlap in those people.” Carlson also says seasonal depression and clinical depression exhibit similar symptoms, including social withdrawal and weight gain, which may make it hard for sufferers to distinguish between the two.

Harvest time and the return of college students spread the coronavirus to rural America (Washington Examiner, Oct. 25)
"During farming, you’d have lots of people who weren’t protected from the virus," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director at the American Public Health Association. "Any time you bring a lot of people together, it is a potential spreader."

Who's in Line for COVID-19 Vaccines? (Voice of America, Oct. 22)
"In a good year, with an established vaccine, it's tough to get shots in the arm," Benjamin said.

But it is doable, he added. Health departments set up drive-thru vaccination centers during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, for example. And there are plenty of mobile clinics across the country.

"To give someone a vaccination, all you really need is a van and a cooler," he said.

Stressing freedom, vaccine opponents rebranding in virus era (KOMO News, Oct. 22)
Researchers reviewed over 200 Facebook pages supporting vaccine refusal for their paper published in the American Journal of Public Health this month. David A. Broniatowski, the paper's lead author, said current protests against government lockdowns and masks took their pages directly from the anti-vaccine playbook.

“We could’ve seen it coming,” said Broniatowski, an associate professor at George Washington University's School of Engineering and Applied Science. “This was all happening right under our noses, and it’s continuing to happen.”

Why the U.S. doesn't have an at-home coronavirus test yet (Politico, Oct. 21)
“If this was a disease that only impacted the individual, then it wouldn’t be such a problem,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “The problem is that there will be a cohort of people who will take the test, find out that they are presumably negative, but they really weren’t, and go out and infect other people.”

Upcoming Supreme Court Ruling Could Jeopardize Health Insurance for People With COVID (Scientific American, Oct. 21)
But even if the court severs the mandate from most of the law — as Justice Brett Kavanaugh and others have hinted — and strikes down only parts of it, that decision could still do significant damage because the ACA is so intricately tied to the health care system, a number of experts say. Invalidating the law would “throw the nation into economic chaos, in addition to people not having health insurance,” says Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, a professional organization that promotes public health. “The unintended consequences of even a small tinkering of the ACA could have enormous implications.”

As cases rise again, second thoughts on another lockdown (Boston Globe, Oct. 17)
And Shawnita Sealy-Jefferson, a social epidemiologist at Ohio State University, said the movement toward targeted closures continues to disenfranchise high-risk communities.

“Large numbers of people have died, and the majority of people who have died have been people of color. I see this push against shutdowns as being an economic one, and it’s not really thinking about the potential cost in terms of lives that are lost,” said Sealy-Jefferson, the incoming chair of the American Public Health Association’s [Epidemiology Section]. “The people who are dying most are not being centered in the decisions about how we address spikes in the number of cases.”

Multiple Health Organizations Unite to Condemn COVID-19 Herd Immunity Strategy (Yahoo News, Oct. 15)
A bevy of health organizations has come together to issue a statement speaking out against herd immunity as a means of limiting the spread of COVID-19. The statement, published on Wednesday on the American Public Health Association (APHA) website, was authored by 17 groups, including the Trust for America’s Health and the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.

Half of Black adults say they won't take a coronavirus vaccine (The Undefeated, Oct. 14)
Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, has been working with the FDA on how to increase acceptance of a future vaccine. He’s been in frequent contact with administration health officials who, he says, have tried to increase the focus on those especially vulnerable to COVID-19. But, “this administration can be very reluctant to lean forward on race and ethnic disparities. They came late to the party dealing with data and even talking about the fact those disparities exist,” Benjamin said.

Mike Pence said Joe Biden copied Trump's pandemic response plan. That's false. (PolitiFact, Oct. 13)
The two candidates’ approaches to listening to scientists is also different.

"Biden has said he is going to look at science and value the best scientists," said [APHA Executive Director Georges] Benjamin. "The Trump administration has not walked the talk; they have said one thing and done something else. If you go on the Trump administration website, you see guidelines that they didn’t follow themselves."

How risky is voting in person? Here's how to navigate your options  during the pandemic (PBS News Hour, Oct. 12)
If you’re not sure how to go about voting this year, resources like the Healthy Voting guides assembled by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), the American Public Health Association and other collaborators can help. Those guides aim to “cover best practices for mail voting and in-person voting,” allowing voters “to learn their state’s voting options and rules before they cast a ballot.”

Barrett hearings become platform for COVID-19 risk debate (Roll Call, Oct. 12)
Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, said it appeared that Lee had followed the CDC's guidance "by the book." Still, he said Lee and others in the room should wear masks, even when speaking, since that can be an extra protection against aerosolization, or the virus spreading via the air.

"He is going into a relatively high-risk environment," Benjamin said, noting that people in the room were older and some were likely to have other illnesses that could put them at higher risk for a more severe case of the virus. "If I was giving public health advice, my advice would be that everybody should wear a mask, even him, because it adds an additional layer of protection."

Battered by Trump, the CDC's Director Faces Pressure to Speak Out (New York Times, Oct. 10)
“I don’t think he was the leader for this agency at this point in time,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, who has known Dr. Redfield since they served together in the Army decades ago. “I don’t know if anybody could have been.”

Pese a que aún no revela si ya dio negativo por coronavirus, el presidente Trump planea actos de campaña 
(Although he has not yet revealed whether he has tested negative for coronavirus, President Trump plans campaign events) (Univision, Oct. 9)
APHA President-Elect José Ramón Fernández-Peña, MD, MPA: It doesn't seem like the right thing to do. It seems to be irresponsible.

Making a COVID vaccine is one thing, distributing it is another (Marketplace podcast, Oct. 8)
APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD: We could theoretically, just as we did with testing supplies, run into some problems of having enough vaccine but not enough of the injection materials to put the shots in the arms...The people that are going to have to give the vaccination are the same people that are involved in managing the testing, contact tracing..."

Racism is the most significant underlying condition of the COVID-19 pandemic (Poynter, Oct. 8)
When the American Public Health Association declared racism a public health crisis, it opened the door for states, cities and counties to name racism as a determinant of health.

States are scrambling to build vaccine distribution infrastructure (Marketplace, Oct. 8)
“We could, theoretically, just as we did with testing supplies, run into some problems of having enough vaccine, but not enough of the injection material to actually put the shots in the arms,” said Georges Benjamin, director of the American Public Health Association.

Do these hoaxes about Trump and COVID-19 look familiar? That's because they are (Poynter, Oct. 8)
Disinformation expert Joan Donovan, writing in the American Journal of Public Health, provided some tips for how health professionals can correct misinformation about COVID-19.

“The pandemic lays bare how the algorithmic design of search engines and social media, which prioritize fresh and relevant content, contributes to confusion by mixing different kinds of information into a single feed: the mundane, the newsworthy, and critical medical recommendations.” she wrote.

'He should be the gold standard': Trump plans to attend next week's debate concerning health officials (Independent, Oct. 7)
Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said most patients are no longer infectious after 10 to 14 days. But given the known timing of when Mr Trump began feeling ill, "he'll be really close. All you have to do is be wrong within a day or two, and he could easily still be infected … it's going to be tight."

Capitol Hill shuns broad COVID testing regime despite pleas from members, experts (National Journal, Oct. 7)
Even though the rapid tests can’t be entirely relied on for diagnosis, they can help limit the spread of the disease over time, said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association and former secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“If you have a test that is 30 percent false negatives, that means that you’re accepting that false-negative rate just to be sure that 70 percent of people that are going through the door are fine,” said Benjamin.

Why 2020 is such an important year to get your flu shot (Next Avenue, Oct. 6)
Facing the double jeopardy of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic and the annual flu season rushing at us, health experts are doubling down on their usual flu shot appeals.

“This is going to be one of the most important years to get your flu shot,” says Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. Benjamin, who just turned 68, says he got his about a month ago.

Anti-Vaxxers Feed off Democrats' Skepticism of COVID Vaccine(Newsweek, Oct. 6)
Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, is confident any vaccine put out to the public will be safe and effective, but said that at the "end of the day no therapeutic is effective unless people want to take it."

"[Politicization is] causing enormous problems with public trust," he told Newsweek, adding that Trump is not even communicating with his own best interests in mind. "He shoots from the hip all the time… He does a lot to undermine his own case. Starting with the name Operation Warp Speed. [That] would not have been my choice for the name of a program if I was strategically trying to get people's confidence."

Why health experts are skeptical NBA can begin next season with fans in arenas (USA Today, Oct. 6) 
“Anybody who goes to a game and thinks they’re going to be totally risk-free are full of themselves. So the question is – how can you integrate a testing regimen going into the game?” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “If we have positive rates at less than 5% around the country, then we’re much more likely able to do that. You still have to recognize people will get infected and will get sick if they go to games. But we’ll be able to get our hands around the contact tracing, so that you can do disease containment much more easily.”

Mask wearing and social distancing for COVID-19 may be slowing influenza spread (Deseret News, Oct. 5)
“The belief is this was the result of wearing masks, more frequent hand-washing, physical distancing and less large gatherings,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association told Salon. “Influenza and the common cold are diseases spread person to person in much the same way as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. So, efforts to reduce COVID-19 have the dual benefit of reducing colds and flu.”

U.S. election 2020: public health (The Lancet, Oct. 3)
Trump has not articulated a vision for public health in his second term other than eliminating the Affordable Care Act and women's right to abortion, said Georges Benjamin, a physician and executive director of the American Public Health Association. “In terms of COVID-19, he is over-relying on the speedy production of a vaccine that we don't yet know is safe and effective”, he said. If Trump is re-elected, Benjamin expects “he will continue the destructive efforts to undermine science.”

Trump sets off multistate COVID tracing crisis (Politico, Oct. 2)
“They’re way behind the curve in trying to catch all the folks that the president has been around,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “The fact that he’s been around so many people and that he doesn’t wear a mask, he could be a superspreader, we just don’t know yet.”

Trump's age, weight put him at "high risk" among COVID-19 patients (Salon, Oct. 2)
"There is no question that [the administration's] whole approach to this disease has not been science-based. It remains to be seen who gets sick and and how they got sick," Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA) and former secretary of health in Maryland, told Salon. "The question is whether or not he infected others or others infected him. We don't know yet, but he certainly did not use all of the public health protections that we have. A mask, as an example, is the obvious one to give himself the best protection that he could have had."

Denver pharmacies stock up — and some are running short — as more people seek flu shots (Denver Post, Oct. 1)
Public health officials have urged everyone older than 6 months to get the flu shot. They encourage that every year, because thousands of people die of flu complications even in normal times, but it’s even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, during a virtual event held by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

As COVID-19 deaths mount, political meddling and disinformation erode trust in health agencies (USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, Sept. 30)
APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD: "I believe in science. I believe in public health. And I believe we will all get through this with a responsible public health response. Rebuilding trust depends on more than a sound bite and will take time. Our political leaders must do all they can to shore up the credibility of nation’s public health agencies and instill public trust and confidence, or we will soon hear the Washington National Cathedral ring its bells 400 times."

Scientists say social distancing is working — for a completely different disease than COVID-19 (Salon, Sept. 30)
"The belief is this was the result of wearing masks, more frequent hand washing, physical distancing and less large gatherings," Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA) and former secretary of health in Maryland, told Salon by email. "Influenza and the common cold are diseases spread person to person in much the same way as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. So, efforts to reduce COVID-19 have the dual benefit of reducing colds and flu."

Mapping the Disparities That Led to an Unequal Pandemic (Bloomberg CityLab, Sept. 30)
“We may be in the same storm together, but we’re on different boats,” said Linda Rae Murray, a former president of the American Public Health Association and former chief medical officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health. “Those people who are on a little raft or on a little dinghy — we need to make sure they’re in the kind of boat that can survive the storm, and we’re not doing that.” 

COVID-19 cases rising in 21 states, raising fears about a fall surge (Washington Examiner, Sept. 28)
The current rate of increase suggests that a new wave may be forming.

"We really don’t know yet," Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director at the American Public Health Association, told the Washington Examiner recently. "What we do know for sure is that we are going to have these peaks and episodic outbreaks."

MORE NEWS COVERAGE (September 2020)

Tiny airborne particles may pose a big coronavirus problem (Associated Press, Sept. 26)
At a recent meeting on aerosols, however, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, noted that preventive steps can be a challenge in the real world. Keeping apart from other people can be difficult in homes that house multiple generations. Some old buildings have windows that were “nailed shut years ago,” he said. And “we have far too many communities where they simply don’t have access to clean water to wash their hands.”

Healthiest communities in America have fared better during COVID-19 pandemic (Stock News Press, Sept. 26)
Of the 25 communities with the highest COVID-19 death rate, 20 have a Black population that is above average, and eight have a majority-Black population, the report said.

"Communities of color have always been underserved, under-resourced and under fire," said Susan L. Polan, the associate executive director of public affairs and advocacy at the American Public Health Association, who wasn't involved in the study.

Local Health Officials Worry CDC Has 'Lost Its Soul' (Stateline, Sept. 25)
“Political interference in public health is not new. It’s just more open and more brash and less thoughtful than it’s ever been,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

How Public Health Workers Can Combat Their Frustrations and Mental Health Challenges In COVID-19 (Mental Health America, Sept. 23)
APHA President Lisa Carlson, MPH, MCHES, and past APHA PHEHP Section Chair Johnanna M. Hinman, MPH, CHES: "This pandemic brings us ample sources of frustration, but we can mitigate those stresses. As public health professionals, we need to acknowledge the impact of mental health broadly when talking about COVID-19 — taking care of our patients, ourselves and each other."

The U.S. has lost 200,000 people to COVID-19. How did this happen? (PBS, Sept. 21)
APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin: You know, I also just first honor the people that tragically have died, and just remind myself that this was preventable.

If you look at the rest of the world, they showed us a road map of what we should have done to try to minimize our numbers, and we have not done that.

Is Halloween cancelled? Experts debate if kids can trick-or-treat safely (Salon, Sept. 18)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, felt that in-person trick or treating is a bad idea in 2020.

"I would suggest families plan for virtual Halloween this year," Benjamin wrote to Salon. "Kids can dress up a do FaceTime, zoom or other virtual events with families and friends."

6 closer looks at the pandemic's impact on minorities and the poor (Poynter, Sept. 18)
The American Journal of Public Health in its September issue highlights an increase in xenophobia and discriminatory attacks since the virus began spreading in the United States. While Asians are a smaller portion of the population than Black or Hispanic residents in most states, they also have been disproportionately affected by the virus in roughly 20 states.

Mistrust in government is hindering COVID-19 surveillance efforts, expert says (CNN, Sept. 16)
"It is very challenging in many areas today, where we're seeing people who do not want to participate in any kind of follow up with regard to surveillance, because of their distrust of government and the public health system," [Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota] said during an American Public Health Association[/National Academy of Medicine] webinar.

Osterholm said that challenges in agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and US Food and Drug Administration, have eroded trust in the whole public health system.

“There has been more than enough public discussion of challenges about the validity of the information coming from those areas, that then often will translate into the public's trust of even state and local health departments and the compliance with contact tracers,” Osterholm said.

Why Black, Indigenous and Other People of Color Experience Greater Harm During the Pandemic (Smithsonian Magazine, Sept. 15)
Preeminent public health scholar and former president of the American Public Health Association Camara Jones defines structural racism as “a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks (which is what we call ‘race’), that unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities, unfairly advantages other individuals and communities, and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources.”

Doomed from the start? Or Not? Health experts evaluate college reopenings (Inside Higher Ed, Sept. 15)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said some colleges are evidently struggling. But struggling, he said, has less to do with absolute cases and more to do with an administration’s ability to manage those cases.

“You could have five cases and say, ‘I can’t handle this,’ and decide to go all virtual,” he said. Even dealing with a low number of cases might be too much for an administration, since that situation still requires sanitizing, mitigating exposure and communicating with students and parents.

Why did COVID-19 become partisan? (CBS News, Sept. 13)
"It's just amazing how we as a nation have lost our way and have begun politicizing things that, you know, in the past there was consensus on, and we're seeing more and more of that," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, who heads the American Public Health Association, which rallied 347 of the nation's most prestigious health organizations in support of the CDC.

"Politics plays a role in lots of things," he said, "but if people think that is your primary purpose, then they're always suspect, and it gives people who don't want to participate the wiggle room not to do it."

COVID-19 vaccine unlikely to be 'magic bullet' when it arrives (Las Vegas Review-Journal, Sept. 12)
“The nation needs to be concerned about not just the vaccine being made, but how do you get it?” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “Who’s going to buy it? How do you procure it?”

A guide to the most promising coronavirus vaccine candidates around the world (Raw Story, Sept. 12)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA) and former secretary of health in Maryland, expressed a similar point.

“The current progress on a COVID is on track as a phase three trial,” Benjamin wrote. “So far the complications that have been reported publicly are minor with the one exception of the one from the Oxford group that was reported yesterday. We don’t know yet what this complication of real means. I think we are on track to have meaningful answers by the end of the year about safety and efficacy. That does not mean we will have all of the answers by then for sure, but we will at least have a reasonable handle on which vaccines have a high degree of promise.”

Trump draws fire for saying he downplayed the virus to avoid 'panic' (The Hill, Sept. 11)
“People are smart and pretty resilient,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “If you tell them what’s going on, you can do it in a way that doesn’t panic them.”

Maryland to spend $7.5M on a new kind of rapid coronavirus test, first purchase in 10-state compact (Baltimore Sun, Sept. 10)
A test that could be done easily by individuals at home, like a pregnancy test, or at work or school would be best, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association...For now, just more, and faster, testing will help contain the virus, said Benjamin, also a former Maryland health secretary.

He said the pubic will have to live with testing, as well as contact tracing and quarantining, to contain the spread of the coronavirus for the foreseeable future. Preventive measures, such as hand washing, masking and social distancing, also remain vital.

“Over time, those tests will become more plentiful and more reliable,” he said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.”

Rebuilding the Ties of Public Health: A Q&A With Georges C. Benjamin, MD (American Journal of Managed Care, Sept. 10)
"I think what the COVID-19 [coronavirus disease 2019] pandemic has done is share in the starkest terms how unequal our society is and how disease anywhere impacts everybody, everywhere."

Despite Warnings, No Clear Advice on Closing Dorms (Insider Higher Ed, Sept. 10)
“There’s a failure to have unified national leadership,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

AstraZeneca pauses vaccine trial after unexplained illness in volunteer (CNN, Sept. 9)
Georges Benjamin: "Getting a vaccine created is a complicated process, so I'm glad to hear that they're doing exactly the right thing bu looking into it, pausing, at least vaccinations for this particular vaccine for now. It tells you that none of this is a sure thing."

COVID-19: A course on going to college safely (The Hill, Sept. 8)
Those who testified included Christina Paxson, president of Brown University, Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University, and Logan Hampton of Lane College in Tennessee. Only one health expert, George Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, was on the panel.

Yes, We All Want a COVID Vaccine to Fix Everything, But That's Unlikely (KQED-FM Online, Sept. 8)
Making sure there is adequate access to syringes, vials, stoppers, gloves and even alcohol swabs is “going to be a challenge,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association...

The troubled rollout of coronavirus tests at the beginning of the pandemic shows just how difficult carrying out a mass vaccination program could be.

“Remember that we are going to be vaccinating everyone in the world, so that means, just like testing, there's going to be supply chain issues that we've got to work through early in the process,” Benjamin said.

States Prepare for Potential Fall Vaccine Distribution Under Pressure from CDC (NPR, Sept. 4)
"I was obviously concerned because of the politicization that's going on," says Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. President Trump has suggested a vaccine would be ready before the end of the year "if we can, maybe before."

But Benjamin says, "We've got to take a deep breath." He says the CDC's timeline maybe unrealistic, but it's not necessarily politically motivated. "It is very clear that we need to lean forward to prepare to deliver the vaccine."

As world fights COVID-19, CDC recommends flu shots (KETK.com, Sept. 4)

Just this week, parents in Massachusetts protested against mandatory flu shots for students

It’s one example of the challenges health officials face this year, as they combat the flu and COVID-19.

“Having really two big epidemics that have similar symptoms, as well as the way it would tax the health system, would be a real problem,” [APHA Executive Director Georges] Benjamin said.

Is the Trump administration bluffing about a vaccine timeline? Scientists are skeptical (Salon, Sept. 3)
"It is a reasonable idea to begin state and national planning to distribute the vaccine, because it has some unique storage needs," Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, told Salon by email. "I[t] probably will require two doses and will be of limited supply initially. This will take several months to appropriately plan for. However, there is no way the vaccine studies can responsibly be ready until the end of the year at the earliest. Most likely it will be January of 2021 before we will have the understanding needed to be secure we have a safe and effective vaccine."

Georgia government plans for COVID vaccine rollout by Nov. 1 (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sept. 3)
“This is the group that’s unable to do the adequate contract tracing. And you want them now to pivot and give vaccinations?” [APHA Executive Director Georges] Benjamin said. “I don’t think this vaccine’s going to ready for prime time until after the first of the year, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to begin making sure the infrastructure’s in place to deliver it.”

Flu Season and COVID-19 Are About to Collide: Now What? (Wired, Sept. 2)
“We need to focus, right now, on getting people vaccinated and reemphasizing masking, physical distancing, and handwashing,” says Georges Benjamin, a physician and the executive director of the American Public Health Association. “We’d like to take the influenza problem off the table.”

11 Ways to Avoid COVID Every Day (Yahoo! Style, Sept. 2)
People with certain health conditions—from heart disease to diabetes or obesity, patients undergoing treatments for cancer, or people who are older or who live with older relatives, for example—should limit their outings to a far greater extent than people not in higher-risk categories.

"Some people should not take that risk at all," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. "It doesn't mean you can't go outside, or go somewhere where you can chill out and relax. But do it away from other people."

Apple, Google enhance contact-tracing technology to help combat COVID-19 (MarketWatch, Sept. 1)
“Innovative technologies like EN Express will help enhance the capacity of the public to know their exposure to COVID-19 and aid public health practitioners to be more effective in their efforts to contain this and other infectious diseases,” Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said in a statement.

CDC 's missteps are causing people to lose trust in a great institution (United Press International, Sept. 1)
The American Public Health Association has pointed out that the change was made without effective consultation with public health professionals working on the ground to control the pandemic. The World Health Organization continues to support testing of asymptomatic persons. Nearly every public health organization has called for a reversal. 

MORE NEWS COVERAGE (August 2020)

Why the "6%" meme stating COVID-19 deaths are exaggerated is wrong (Salon, Aug. 31)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA) and former secretary of health in Maryland, confirmed to Salon by email that the six percent figure is being characterized "incorrectly."

...He added, "The way they are interpreting the 6% figure implies that the individual would have died from their underlying disease regardless of the SARS-CoV-2 infection, which you cannot say."

Scientists Fear the Trump Administration is Putting Politics Before Public Health (NPR, Aug. 28)
Georges Benjamin: "At the end of the day, this undermines the credibility of the CDC because now you've got everybody pointing fingers at one another. And the truth of the matter is, if you want to make sure that the right people get tested with the right tests at the right time, then you need a national testing strategy that's been very thoughtful, that's science-based, that is in print and that everybody understands. And they've not done that yet."

The Heat: COVID-19 in the U.S. (CGTN, Aug. 28)
Georges Benjamin: "We very well might have a recurrence of outbreaks in our country, we really just don't know. This is gonna still be a roller coaster for some time to come."

Is 6 feet enough? Medical experts question the wisdom behind social distancing guidelines (Salon, Aug. 28)
"The 6 foot (2 meter) rule remains a reasonable guideline," Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, told Salon by email. "The bulk of droplet emissions are addressed by this. Aerosols are still a problem but are addressed some by masks. This is a practical guide when possible. Mask still should always be used as part of layered protections. This is all about risk reduction. The only way to have zero risk is to not be around anyone infected."

With COVID Vaccine in Works, 1 in 5 Americans Doesn't Believe in Shots (HealthDay News, Aug. 28)
As many as 20% of Americans don't believe in vaccines, a new [American Journal of Public Health] study finds.

CDC's Changed Testing Guidelines Could Lead to Less Testing, Experts Fear (NPR, Aug. 26)
APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD: "The truth of the matter is, if you want to make sure that the right people get tested with the right test at the right time, then you need a national testing strategy that's been very thoughtful, that's science-based, that's in print, and that everybody understands. And they've not done that yet."

There are now three known cases patients contracting COVID-19 twice (Salon, Aug. 26)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA) and former secretary of health in Maryland, told Salon by email that one of the most important takeaways from these potential reinfections is that they reveal just how little we know about the novel coronavirus.

"[This] tells us that the immune relationship between humans and this virus is still poorly understood," Benjamin explained. "What we do know is the human immune response to infection has a wide spectrum which includes resistance to infection (kids who get infected but not sick); people that get sick and recover; people that get sick then recover and then get very, very sick; the recurrence of disease as represented in this single case; and evidence that vaccination will yield partial or full protection."

Why the United States is having a coronavirus data crisis (Nature, Aug. 25)
...APHA and other scientific organizations have long called for resources to improve data surveillance in the US public-health system.

“We’ve begged for money over the years to build a solid information highway so that we can collect data rapidly and share it with the people that need it in a timely way,” says [APHA Executive Director Georges] Benjamin. “But we’ve never gotten what we needed.”

What to Know about COVID Contact Tracing and Scams (WebMD, Aug. 24)
When contact tracers call the people who were exposed to notify them, they should identify themselves by name, where they work, and why they are calling you, says Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association. "They ought to be able to tell you where and under what circumstances [you were exposed]," he says.

Understanding Social Determinants of Health With Dr. Georges Benjamin (Hospitals in Focus podcast, Aug. 24)
Dr. Benjamin: Increasingly, we in the health community are understanding how we can partner with organizations...to make it more functional for people and easier for people to improve their own health.

Coronavirus vaccine experts: beware dangerous safety short cuts (The Mercury News, Aug. 22)
In interviews sponsored by the National Press Foundation, vaccine authorities answered questions about the U.S. strategy.

Q: Might there be a shortage of supplies?

A: Syringes are probably less of a problem. But vials and stoppers... If I was wanting to pay attention in what can go wrong, it'd be that.
—Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association

Colleges differ when it comes to sharing test results for athletes (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug. 21) 
Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, understands the fine line between too much and not enough information.

“It’s complicated,” Benjamin said. “Universities do have an obligation to maintain individual confidentiality. Having said that, I do believe the more transparency you have, the better. If you have an outbreak on a team, it’s best to make sure people are aware of that.

Why Some People Get Terribly Sick from COVID-19 (Scientific American, Aug. 20)
Many factors contribute to this excessive toll, but they stem from the biased attitudes and actions of American society, not from Black American biology, says epidemiologist and family physician Camara Phyllis Jones of the Morehouse School of Medicine. “Race doesn’t put you at higher risk. Racism puts you at higher risk,” says Jones, who is a past president of the American Public Health Association. “Racism puts you at higher risk through the two mechanisms of being more infected because we are more exposed and less protected, and then, once infected, we are more likely to have a very severe course and die.”

Scam alert: Things a COVID-19 contact tracer wouldn't say (Kaiser Health News, Aug. 20)
“Anytime someone calls you for information, you should be concerned about who is calling,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “If they are legitimate, you can say ‘Give me your name and phone number’ and you can always call them back” after doing some checking.

Legal experts call for Congress to ban COVID-19 vaccine emergency authorizations (S&P Global, Aug. 19)
"Decades of pandemic preparation focused too much on plans and laws on paper and ignored the devastating effects of budget cuts and political interference on the operational readiness of our local, state and national health agencies," the legal experts wrote in the report from the George Consortium's Public Health Law Watch, which was sponsored by the American Public Health Association, the de Beaumont Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Blacks, Latinos Only Small Percentage of Moderna Vaccine Trial (CNN, Aug. 18)
Georges Benjamin: "It's a big problem because we know that getting everyone into these studies will tell us whether or not it works on people of color, and works as effectively. And so we need to get more people of color in these studies, and it's going to require a lot of work."

Legal Experts Blast U.S. Response to COVID-19 (MedPage Today, Aug. 18)
The playbook is not a consensus document, [APHA Executive Director Georges] Benjamin noted, but a report developed by an APHA-supported group. "We have had a lot of political interference that has had an impact on health," he said. "We are chasing this disease, but it's not too late."

COVID-19 Deaths Skew Younger Among Minorities (Wall Street Journal, Aug. 17)

Distrust of health care system adds to toll in rural Black communities gutted by COVID-19 (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Aug. 14)
Additionally, there is misinformation poisoning the effort— hardening a concern that African Americans could be used to see if the speedily developed vaccine is safe.

“We have seen flyers flying around encouraging African Americans in particular not to be tested, not to get the vaccine whenever it’s available,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, director of the American Public Health Association, said at a recent panel at the virtual conference of the National Medical Association, which represents Black physicians. “They quote the infamous Tuskegee study.”

COVID-19 is making leaders take not of another health crisis: Racism (The Philadelphia Tribune, Aug. 14)
"
What we're hoping will happen is that by thinking of this through a public health lens, it will help people recognize that racism actually hurts people -- it impacts their health in a negative way," Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told CNN. "Then we're hoping that once people recognize that and they take the next step, they will begin to do things to unravel that."

Fact check: 2009 swing flu spread rapidly, but COVID-19 is more deadly (The Tennessean, Aug. 13)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told USA TODAY that because the severity of the coronavirus is quite different from that of the swine flu, the U.S. response needed to be significantly different, too.

Benjamin said the U.S. was able to develop a vaccine relatively quickly to combat the swine flu. The first doses of the swine flu vaccine were given on Oct. 5, just five months and 20 days after the first confirmed U.S. case, and were available in larger quantities in November. But there is no coronavirus vaccine.

College students speak out about the stress of going back to school (TODAY Online, Aug. 12)
Lisa Carlson, president of the American Public Health Association, said regular hand washing, watching your distance (keeping a distance of at least 6 feet from others) and wearing a mask will continue to be the most important things students can do to prevent contracting the virus and spreading it to their roommates. She adds that communication is vital among cohabitants.

“People have to understand that the most important thing they can do is communicate,” said Carlson. “So if they talk to their suitemates or their common space people about things like, ‘How are we going to keep the space clean? How are we going to deal with somebody if they start to show symptoms? And how are we going to deal with our bubble or our quarantine team or our social distancing with other people?’... Having conversations up front about how to deal with all that I think is really important.”

Upcoming events may add to COVID-19 spread after summer surge (CQ Roll Call, Aug. 12)
“This is not going to be a linear explosion of disease,” said American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin. “It will be exponential.”

Bad data is bogging down the COVID-19 fight; US 'needs to change,' experts say (USA Today, Aug. 4)
“Far too often states provide numbers to show their success, when it really is not success at all,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said at the Resolve to Save Lives news briefing.

Gaps in COVID Data Remain Months Into Pandemic (U.S.  News & World Report, Aug. 3)
The data limitations mean it can be difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons among and within states, says Dr. Georges Benjamin, the longtime executive director of the American Public Health Association, which endorsed the report. "While an individual jurisdiction may have their data … being able to understand the data across that region is extremely important," he says.

Workers push to reopen HealthPartners' Riverside Clinic in Minneapolis (StarTribune, Aug. 3)
“We’re very concerned about the loss of health care delivery infrastructure, particularly in lower-income communities, because they’re much more fragile,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “There will be people who call up their doctor’s office and, tragically, find out their provider isn’t there.”

What Made U.S. Health Care So Vulnerable to COVID-19 (The Washington Post, Aug. 2)
Medical expenses or health-related income loss resulted in an average of 530,000 bankruptcies each year in the U.S. from 2013 to 2016, according to the American Public Health Association.

How to Stay Safer on Mass Transit (New York Times, Aug. 1)
Most important, “if anyone has any symptoms or thinks they’re sick, they should not take public transportation,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association. Instead, they should stay home and get in touch with their doctor.

MORE NEWS COVERAGE (July 2020)

4 ways health systems can start to address social disparities (Fortune, July 31)
How well do we measure health outside the hospital and the factors (or social determinants of health, as they’ve often called) that drive population health?

“We have an abundance of data. We have no agreement on which data set to use,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “We could start with a small meaningful subset of data and grow it over time to make sure it’s uniform so we’re all looking at the same numbers and interpreting it the same way.”

Trump promoted a coronavirus conspiracy video: Health experts say it's bunk (Salon, July 30)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told Salon by email that the video's assertion that there have been no coronavirus deaths "is not the experience of everyone else in the world who is treating COVID-19 patients, so one wonders what she was treating and if she treated anyone with COVID-19 who was seriously ill." He noted that the doctor in the video "misstates the concern about cardiovascular risk" with regard to hydroxychloroquine. "We know what that risk is and it is possible to get a population of patients with COVID-19 who are not at risk. But the risk is real and unquestioned."

Regarding the doctors' claims about masks, Benjamin observed that "masks are preventive not curative."

There's been a lack of leadership surrounding COVID-19 (The Hill, July 30)
APHA member Lyndon Haviland: "There have been conflicting positions on testing, treatments, coronavirus insurance coverage, and appropriate gathering sizes, not to mention President Trump's reversal shortly after declaring he would be singularly responsible for re-opening the economy.

US agency vows steps to address COVID-19 inequalities (Associated Press, July 25)
Outside experts agreed that there’s a lot of potential downside to labeling certain racial and ethnic groups as high risk.

“You have to be very careful that you don’t do it in such a way that you’re defining a whole class of people as ‘COVID carriers.’” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Your Favorite Store or Restaurant is Open. How Do You Know It's OK to Go In? (U.S. News & World Report, July 24)
“Some people should not take that risk at all,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “It doesn’t mean you can’t go outside, or go somewhere where you can chill out and relax. But do it away from other people.”

The advice you’ve heard all along still holds: When you go out, wear a mask, keep your distance from others and avoid crowds.

The Limits of Mask Ordinances (New Republic, July 24)
Relying solely on masks to control the pandemic is more difficult for those who face discrimination because of their mask-wearing. There have been accounts of racism against masked people of color, including a case in May where two Black men were escorted out of a Walmart by an armed guard because they were wearing masks. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, called it “the masking-while-Black phenomenon.”

How to Turn Around the US Coronavirus Response (Global Health NOW, July 23)
All of this requires more funding, notes Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association. He believes the $3 trillion bill passed by the House in May approaches the amount needed to address the pandemic, although the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to pass a bill of that size.

“It’s going to cost us, we’re going to have to pay it back,” Benjamin says. “But it’s much easier to fix it now than fix it later, and cheaper too.”

15 Things We Need to Know About the Coronavirus (New York Times, July 21)
There is a better way. Our group — along with a coalition of national, state and academic partners including the American Public Health Association and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security — has developed a list of 15 indicators. Every state and county should be able to collect and publish nine of these immediately and the other six within a few weeks.

Former CDC chief Tom Frieden says states should make more COVID-19 data easily accessible (USA Today, July 21)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, who was also on the call, said uniform and consistent data would provide a "road map" for measuring success. "We're trying to give a group of metrics that when taken as a whole give you a real picture of whether or not we're getting our hands around this epidemic."

Hospitals scramble to switch to government's new COVID reporting system (Minnesota Public Radio, July 21)
Hospitals are already stretched thin by the pandemic, said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. The confusion over what to report and to whom and how may actually impair federal efforts.

“In many ways it may very well delay the response that they’re having,” he said. “And I think that’s the biggest risk, that it really undermines their ability to move as quickly as they would like.”

Former CDC chief: Most states fail to report data key to controlling the coronavirus pandemic (The Washington Post, July 21) Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said states have been slow to release the data because “there aren’t expectations from the White House or the CDC to do it,” and they are concerned doing so will make states “look bad.”

We asked experts to respond to the most common COVID-19 conspiracy theories and misinformation (Salon, July 18) 
[APHA Executive Director Georges] Benjamin elaborated by explaining how the process of accurately classifying deaths is complicated and messy.

"If you die from a severe lung disease or a heart attack with COVID-19 as the precipitating cause, it is still a COVID-19 death," Benjamin said. "We now know that COVID-19 causes a range of clinical conditions, from strokes to blood clots to heart attacks, in addition to severe lung disease. They're all COVID-19 deaths now. Unless you do autopsies on every one of these patients, you won't get 100 percent of the story."

America has bungled the pandemic. Now what? (Christian Science Monitor, July 17)
But happy talk can itself be infectious. Administration officials should have been planning for the worst-case coronavirus scenario, instead of just hoping things would work out, says Georges Benjamin, director of the American Public Health Association.

"We pretended like it wasn’t going to happen to us and then seemed surprised that it happened to us,” says Dr. Benjamin.

HHS directs CDC to put COVID-related hospital data back on its website (CNN, July 16)
"The disruption that they're going to create, and confusion simply telling people to do something different in the middle of a disaster -- that does not work," American Public Health Association Executive Director Dr. Georges Benjamin told CNN.

"It's like telling a soldier in the middle of a battle 'we want you to fight differently than we trained you.' Doesn't work."

Trump Administration Push to 'Consolidate' CDC Data Worries Public Health Experts (NPR, July 16)

GEORGES BENJAMIN: One thing that I've learned is you never, ever, ever change processes in the middle of a disaster.

CHANG: Dr. Georges Benjamin is the director of the American Public Health Association.

BENJAMIN: It does not go well when you do that. No one knows what to do. And it basically confuses your response.

Trump Officials Are Attacking Anthony Fauci. Thousands of Doctors Are Hitting Back (BuzzFeed News, July 16)
Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, told BuzzFeed News that White House aides trying to discredit Fauci only hurts the Trump administration.

"First of all, the people speaking out against Tony Fauci have absolutely no medical credibility, no public health credibility, and frankly, no policy credibility when it comes to any kind of disaster or situation involving human health,” Benjamin told BuzzFeed News. "They are undermining not just Fauci but everyone in the administration. You cannot have a competent public health response without a clear communication strategy. This isn't it."

Should Black and Latino people get priority access to a COVID-19 vaccine? (MarketWatch, July 16)
Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association and former secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said he believes fast-tracking vaccine access solely by race and ethnicity could be “stigmatizing” and might not result in the right groups being prioritized.

“It says that people are at risk because of their skin color, which isn’t the case — they’re at risk because they have public-facing jobs, chronic diseases, and other social determinants that put them at risk,” Benjamin told MarketWatch. “And we have to be very careful — this is not a Black disease. People should not be concerned about African Americans being more infectious than anybody else.”

Hospital officials, experts say new federal rules for COVID-19 reporting will add burdens during pandemic (Washington Post, July 15)
Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, predicted that the data-reporting switch, “is not going to happen as easily or as well as they think.”

“I’m fundamentally against making changes in the middle of a disaster,” he said. “Changing data reporting, asking people to do a new task doesn’t go down easily.”

Benjamin represents one of six public health organizations that issued a statement Tuesday condemning the change.

COVID-19: La Casa Blanca difunde lista con supuestos errores del doctor Fauci, pero omite hablar de sus aciertos (Univision, July 13)
(White House publishes list with alleged errors of Dr. Fauci, omits talking about his successes)

Trump Still Insists High COVID-19 Cases Down to More Testing. He's Wrong (Newsweek, July 10)
The COVID Tracking Project by The Atlantic showed the test positivity rates on Thursday in the recently hard-hit South and West were 13 and 9.3 percent, respectively. The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that the positivity rate was almost 27 percent in Arizona, 19 percent in Florida and 17 percent in South Carolina.

The goal is to keep this figure below 5 percent to ensure enough testing is being carried out so clusters of infected people aren't missed, Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, told Newsweek.

Many People Avoided Hospitals During the Pandemic. The Effect Was Dire. (Consumer Reports, July 10)
Lower-income groups and communities of color already suffer more from chronic diseases, many of which require exactly the sort of constant care and monitoring that has been interrupted by the ongoing pandemic. This disparity can be largely explained by the racism that causes lifelong stress and deprives certain communities access to green spaces, healthy foods, affordable healthcare, and more, according to Camara Phyllis Jones, M.D., Ph.D., an epidemiologist who is the past president of the American Public Health Association and currently a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Systemic racism is a public health issue. Community health workers are proven to help (Philadelphia Inquirer, July 8)
“We have long known racism as a key driver of health,” said Regina Davis Moss, associate executive director of public health policy and practice for the American Public Health Association. “To achieve health equity, you have to address racism as a public health crisis.”

Pence, Azar reassure governors Trump won't end virus emergency declaration (Politico, July 7)
But some groups said their worries wouldn’t be allayed until the declaration is signed, citing the Trump administration’s disjointed response to the pandemic.

“This has not been a group that has acted in an organized, coordinated, or rational way since they walked in the door, so without advocates and experts pushing them to do some of the right things each and every step along the way,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

African Americans die more frequently from COVID-19, but poverty isn't why (Atlanta Daily World, July 7)

While the MIT professors weren’t able to pinpoint one direct cause for the higher death rates, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, pointed to an inability to retreat during the pandemic, a high propensity for chronic diseases among African Americans and poverty as possible causes. He also said misinformation during the early days of the pandemic and a lack of proper testing put black lives at risk.

Lackluster testing in the early days of the pandemic hurt the medical community’s ability to find and quarantine people to slow the spread of Covid-19. Even if a community had a testing site, it was often not easily accessible, said Benjamin

Some scientists believe coronavirus spreads through air much more readily than previous thought (Salon, July 6)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told Salon that he would need to read the scientists' letter to be able to directly comment on their conclusions. He added, however, that "it is well understood that aerosolization as a mode of transmission. The big unknown is how much infection does it cause, and what can other measures like managing airflow differently, UV light exposure, etc. reduce it over wearing a mask, handwashing and physical distancing."

"I prefer a measured, evidence-based approach to answering this question," Benjamin explained. "Right now we know the triad of masks, handwashing & physical distancing works to reduce risk in the face of large and fine (aerosolization) large respiratory spread. Should there be better evidence for these additional interventions from good peer-reviewed studies then we should include them on top of what we are already doing."

Protest, rally or eating out — Where is riskier?  (BBC, July 2)
Cases of the virus are spiking across the country and the US top disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci has warned that there could be 100,000 cases a day if the appropriate actions aren't taken.

Dr Georges Benjamin, the Executive Director at the American Public Health Association, breaks down the risks.

MORE NEWS COVERAGE (June 2020)

Republicans Signal More Aid for Testing (Inside Higher Ed, June 30)
The CDC, though, said testing everyone is not recommended because it’s unknown if comprehensive testing is more effective than implementing other measures, such as social distancing and wearing masks.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, agreed with the CDC.

The tests will identify some who have the virus, he said. "The problem is it's like finding a needle in a haystack." Those who test negative could also get the virus the next day, said Benjamin.

A new coronavirus mutation affects the spike protein that invades human cells (Salon, June 30)
Benjamin observed that there is no evidence that the mutation will impact efforts to develop a vaccine, but added that "we always have to watch for the big genetic change which may mean we need a new or more effective vaccine. We get a flu shot every year because of relatively small changes in the Influenza virus. Enough change on the SARS-2 virus may mean we have to get a new shot every year. Of course that assumes we have a safe and effective vaccine to begin with."

With No Mask Rules, TSA Balances Security With Virus Risk (Bloomberg Businessweek, June 29)
The coronavirus is more often transmitted between people in close physical proximity via respiratory droplets than through shared surfaces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although both can lead to infection. “Physical distancing is incredibly important for this specific virus,” says Surili Sutaria Patel of the American Public Health Association.

Coronavirus opens door to company surveillance of workers (Politico, June 26)
A state-by-state approach to contact tracing — as opposed to one national system — already leaves gaps in efforts to trace and isolate people who have been exposed to the virus.

Contract tracing in your office doesn't do you any good when Johnny goes home and exposes the rest of the family," said Georges Benjamin, who heads the American Public Health Association.

Why Public Health Officials Are Quitting During a Pandemic (Governing, June 24)
“We run the risk of losing some of our best, most well-qualified people right when we need them the most,” says Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Public Health Leadership and Policy: Lessons from Crisis (U.S. News & World Report webinar, June 24)
As the country reopens, how are officials balancing health priorities with policy and economic concerns? What lessons can be learned from responses at the local, state and national levels that might mitigate harm in the future? How can we address systemic racism and the serious health inequities that result?

Georges Benjamin: "This has been the big pandemic that those of us who've been in public health have been talking about, frankly, all of our professional lives. And we've been planning for it. And the real tragedy here is that for a variety of reasons we ought to talk about more in depth, our leadership has failed us. Our plans have failed us. Our systems have failed us."

Coronavirus Coverage and the Silencing of Female Expertise (Undark Magazine, June 22)
“Right now, in Covid, we know for a fact that women are submitting fewer papers, they’re submitting fewer grants, and there are real downstream effects for that,” said Lisa Carlson, an instructor at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and president of the American Public Health Association. If you aren’t getting recognized, funded, and published, she said, you’re not going to succeed as an academic scientist.

Social Distancing, Racism, and Protecting People in a Pandemic Without Police (American Prospect, June 21)
Instead of officers arresting people who violate social-distancing policies, Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, suggests implementing a number of alternative enforcement methods that run less of a risk of creating mistrust and crowding already virus-prone jails. Along with public-education campaigns, Benjamin suggests employing signs and other visual reminders and encouraging people to hold each other accountable.

Poll: Americans not buying White House spin on coronavirus (Associated Press, June 18)
The poll found that only 23% of adults rated the national response as excellent or very good, while an additional 20% rated it as good.

“We always assumed that we have the best — how could the U.S. not have enough masks, and gloves, and gowns?” asked Dr. Georges Benjamin, head of the nonprofit American Public Health Association.

“The answer is that we have always made the assumption we had all that stuff without properly planning,” added Benjamin, who reviewed the results of the poll.

Quarantine fatigue: Governors reject new lockdowns as virus cases spike (Politico, June 11)
“We always knew that once we returned back to the community, we had to do it carefully and that there would have to be a pause when we saw increases,” said Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association. “That should always have been understood.” 

Experts call for White House to craft a plan for equal access to COVID-19 vaccine (National Journal, June 9)
“They are going to have to make sure we have a sound distribution plan to make sure that we don’t repeat the mistakes we did with testing,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association...

Benjamin said Congress should press the administration for a vaccine strategy, and that state and local public health should be consulted.

Protests in the Pandemic (PBS News Hour, June 8)
How should the risk of protesting be weighed against the public health concerns over the lives and living conditions of black Americans?

Georges Benjamin: "The American Public Health Association has been a strong proponent of human rights, and we would not be who we were if we did not believe in the social justice movement that we're seeing.

"It is a risk But at the end of the day, if we don't take this risk right now, when are we going to do it?"

People are gargling bleach, misusing disinfectants. Are you using these products safely? (MSN, June 8)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, agreed. Chances are, if you do bring COVID-19 into your home, it’s because someone got infected with it outside, he said...

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.”

Coronavirus kills black people at twice the rate as white people: Here's what we can do about it (Los Angeles Times, June 6)

Dr. Georges Benjamin knew that when the coronavirus landed on U.S. shores, it was going to be especially bad for black Americans.

Health experts fear long-term damage to CDC's credibility (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 5)
“I’m worried about the CDC, for sure,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, a national organization of health professionals that lobbies at the federal level. “It’s like anybody else who’s been stifled. People are not quite sure what they can and cannot do, but I hope that will go away over time, and when I say over time, I mean quickly.”

Protesting during the coronavirus pandemic: Tips for staying safe, according to experts (Fox News, June 5)
If you are feeling sick at all, "the most important thing is don't go," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association. "If you have any symptomatology at all, because of COVID, don't go."

Some Cities are Shutting Down Coronavirus Testing During the Protests (BuzzFeed News, June 5)
People protesting “do have a higher risk” of infection, Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told BuzzFeed News, although he added exactly how much higher is impossible to quantify at this point. “The concurrence of two public health emergencies — police violence and this outbreak — is really challenging,” Benjamin said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says whether schools reopen in the fall is 'complicated,' will depend on the region (CNBC, June 3)

On Thursday, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions during a hearing that college campuses across the country will see new coronavirus cases whenever they do reopen, regardless of what they do to prevent an outbreak.

Benjamin said that if a school is unable to conduct adequate testing, it “can’t function at all.”

Black Americans Have Been Dying Prematurely Long Before COVID, But Pandemic Highlights Disparities (Kaiser Health News Online, June 3)
“At the end of the day, racism is the original sin here,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “Racism attacks people’s physical and mental health,” he said. It’s “an ongoing public health crisis that needs our attention now.”

Cause of death: COVID-19, police violence or racism? (Los Angeles Times, June 3)
And in the midst of a pandemic, Benjamin and others fear that as crowds fill the streets to protest yet another police killing of an unarmed black man, people of color will again bear the disproportionate brunt of renewed infections.

Protests may add COVID-19 cases and compound racial disparities (Roll Call, June 2)
“There’s no doubt that everyone is concerned about people mingling. We’ve been hoping for a safe summer, that people would return back into the community in a manner that encouraged physical distancing, wearing a mask and washing hands,” said American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin. “If you could plan an event to accelerate the risks of catching COVID-19, this would be it.”

Benjamin also highlighted the health impact of the issues that brought protesters into the streets. 

MORE NEWS COVERAGE (May 2020)

COVID-19 Hits Blacks Hardest Due to 'Legacy of Inequality' (Washington Informer, May 29)
Because of COVID-19’s disproportionate effect on minority communities, it’s especially important that people of color “develop trust with a health care provider” who also treats them well, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Medical experts say there will be a second wave of coronavirus in San Antonio, but when? (KSAT, May 28)
Dr. Benjamin said now is the time communities should be planning.

“Look at reestablishing their supply lines, thinking about what they need if they had another wave for personal protective gear. Again, thinking about how they are going to get ventilators,” Dr. Benjamin said

Do Masks Prevent COVID-19? (Ozarks Tonight, May 25)
Georges Benjamin: "Absolutely, the mask is protective...It's about dramatically reducing the risk."

Trump Tweets and Golfs, but  Makes No Mention of Virus's Toll (New York Times, May 24)
The American Public Health Association said the 100,000 milestone was a time to reinforce efforts to curb the virus, not abandon them.

“This is both a tragedy and a call to action,” it said in a statement. “Infection rates are slowing overall in the U.S., but with 1.6 million cases across the nation in the past four months, the outbreak is far from over. New hot spots are showing up daily, and rates remain steady in at least 25 states.”

And even that grim total barely begins to scratch the surface of the pain and suffering endured by a country under siege by the worst public health crisis combined with the worst economic crisis in decades.

POLITICO-Harvard poll: Stark partisan divide on reopening country (Politico, May 22)
But two months into a startling economic collapse that’s left about 39 million Americans filing for unemployment, many of those hit hardest by closures are ready to begin recovery. Six in 10 owners or managers of small- or medium-sized businesses said nonessential businesses should reopen. Also in agreement were 52 percent of households where someone lost a job or went on forced unpaid leave, compared to 41 percent of those who haven’t lost income.

“They're basically saying they think the economic risk outweighs the health risk,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “I don't think they're being callous about the health risk. I think they're making a judgment around how they value risk."

Doctors push Trump to quickly reopen country in letter organized by conservatives (The Hill, May 21)
Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said he doesn't think anyone would argue in favor of an indefinite shutdown, but there's a difference between reopening safely based on science, and reopening quickly without science.

For example, he said if someone is promoting the wide use of hydroxychloroquine, "I would question the veracity of a lot of other things" they said, because it is not "steeped in science."

How to Recreate Responsibly in the Outdoors (REI Co-Op Journal, May 21)
Lisa Carlson, president of the American Public Health Association and an administrator with the Emory School of Medicine, says it’s important that people use nature as a respite during these times.

“Our outdoor spaces are sacred spaces, and they’re also public health opportunities. Trees and nature are really important for good health,” she says. “We need to be more intentional about how we’re outside. But it doesn’t mean we can’t figure out how to make it work.”

Dr. Georges Benjamin on States Reopening and Potential Risks (CSPAN Washington Journal, May 20)
"My biggest concern is that people will not continue to practice good public health practices that we've been doing for the last two months. That means covering up your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, wearing a mask, physically distancing yourself from one another, washing your hands, those kinds of things that are just common sense measures that we do. And we have a tendency to forget those kinds of things." 

Trump sidelines CDC in push to reopen the US economy (Al Jazeera, May 20)
For public health officials nationwide, the secondary role of CDC scientists in the White House's policy decisions is visible and problematic, said Dr Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association in Washington, DC.

"Right now, the White House is controlling the message, controlling who says it," Benjamin told Al Jazeera..."They rolled out their more complete guidance last night in the middle of the night when nobody could see it," Benjamin said.

Scientists Studying the Coronavirus Say Some States are Censoring Them (BuzzFeed News, May 20)
“Anything short of full transparency does not serve the public good,” American Public Health Association President Lisa Carlson told BuzzFeed News. “People make mistakes; people dispute data. What’s important is to get to, and to maintain, accurate, timely, and complete data — and transparency.”

9 ways COVID-19 may forever upend the U.S. health care industry (Stat News, May 19)
Georges Benjamin, executive director for the American Public Health Association: “We have to recognize that inequities still exist. Why do we think it’s going to be any different when we get a vaccine or antiviral agent? We need a plan now to make sure that those existing disparities are not exacerbated by inadequate access to treatment or access to vaccines. We have to pay attention to that now, and make sure we plan.”

Businesses, Schools Draw on CDC's Guidance to Reopen (NPR, May 18)
ALLISON AUBREY: Well, you know, public health experts and physicians I've spoken to say the guidance from the CDC calling on employers to protect high-risk individuals, it's a good idea, but they ask where is the leadership here? Where are the resources to see this through? Where's the sick pay for essential workers or access to easy testing? Benjamin points out that minorities, often those hit hardest by COVID, hold many of the service sector jobs.

GEORGES BENJAMIN: Bus drivers, security guards, grocery clerks, people who pick up our garbage — we need to prioritize that from a systematic perspective. And we really have not yet done that. And I think the guidance put out so far is too weak, too shallow. And this has been a failure of federal leadership for sure.

Minnesota officials cautious after first week with fewer COVID-19 deaths (Star-Tribune, May 16)
But [APHA Executive Director Georges] Benjamin said he was concerned by the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the state, adding that many states are opening up even though they haven’t shown a sustained decline in cases.

“At least right now, there’s probably rationale for doing some very careful things,” Benjamin said Saturday. “I still think, in total, it’s too early to reopen.”

Connecting with nature during COVID-19 (AccuWeather.com, May 15)
APHA President Lisa Carlson: "We really can't separate physical and mental health. They are one and the same. So the things we do that are good for our physical health are also good for our mental health. And vice versa."

Here's how that rumor that smokers can't get COVID-19 got started (Salon, May 13)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, echoed Haseltine's and Medford's observations.

"People should not think that smoking is going to help them with their disease," Benjamin explained. "We know that that is not the way the pathology of the disease works. When you smoke, you injure the lining of your airway and your lungs, and you may actually make yourself more susceptible to the virus. Now it may very well be that nicotine has some impact on the virus, but it's not going to be outweighed by the injury that you have by smoking."

CDC guidance more restrictive than White House (Associated Press, May 13)
“The White House is pushing for reopening but the truth of the matter is the White House has just not had a comprehensive plan where all the pieces fit. They’re doing it piecemeal,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

House Coronavirus Oversight Panel to Focus on U.S. Reopening (Bloomberg, May 12)
A new U.S. House panel created to oversee coronavirus relief spending will focus its first briefing on requirements to safely reopen the American economy during the coronavirus pandemic...

Three others participating are Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute at Harvard University; Tom Inglesby, director for health security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Trump plays down coronavirus testing as U.S. falls short of level scientists say is needed (The Washington Post, May 8)
Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said that without widespread testing, the nation faces a “recovery that is fraught with enormous hazards. You cannot have public confidence that people can go out and be around one another. You’ll have to repeatedly close things down.”

Striving for Equity in COVID-19 Testing — A conversation with the executive director of the American Public Health Association (California Health Care Foundation, May 7)
Q: When we talk about racial and ethnic disparities, are we talking primarily about Black populations? Or do these disparities extend to other populations too, such as Latinos?

A: It absolutely extends to Latinos and Asians. . . . It’s all about unequal exposure to the virus. We think that more than 25% of the population that gets infected is asymptomatic while still infectious. If you’re in a public-facing job like so many ethnic and racial minorities, you are at a high risk of getting infected. If you do get infected, you may expose other people to that disease. One extremely high-risk group includes anyone working in or living in a congregate setting, like a nursing home. We are seeing unacceptable job-related outbreaks among meat-packing and farm workers. This is also a big problem for those who are incarcerated. The enormous injustice here is evident when we consider that people of color have been incarcerated way out of proportion to their population. Infectious diseases such as COVID-19 can ravage people in settings like this.

Pandemic 'Weather Service" Key Before Next Outbreak, House Told (Bloomberg Law, May 6)
“If we had such a system, we would have had a better early warning on opioid epidemics, we would have had a better early warning on the obesity epidemic, we absolutely would have had a better early warning on this infectious disease epidemic,” Benjamin said. “All of our data systems are very silo based. They don’t talk to one another, and they’re not fast.”

Why the coronavirus pandemic is hitting communities of color particularly hard (The Hill, May 4)
There were early warnings. Dr. Georges E. Benjamin of the American Public Health Association pointed out that evidence indicated that people over 65 with chronic illnesses would find it toughest. He argues, “When you put that together with the understanding that in this country you already have a [black and brown] population disproportionately affected by disparities in things like diabetes, heart disease and asthma, we understood that if those populations got infected they would be more at risk.”

A coronavirus vaccine may arrive next year. 'Herd immunity' will take longer (BioPharmaDive, May 4)
"If there's a production delay, it's going to look just like testing," Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said, referring to the delayed rollout of SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tests. "I think the rate-limiting issue is enough vaccine."

Mathematical models help predict the trajectory of the coronavirus outbreak. But can they be believed?  (Seattle Times, May 3)
When modeling triggers action that alters the course of an epidemic, it can appear that the modelers were ridiculously off-base, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “You have to anticipate that and make sure people understand that the numbers are going to change, and that that’s what success looks like,” he said.

MORE NEWS COVERAGE (April 2020)

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.

   
MORE NEWS COVERAGE (March 2020)

Holdout governors face pressure to issue stay-at-home orders (The Hill, March 30)
Some leading experts said all states should be issuing stay-at-home orders and closing nonessential businesses. According to a database from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 22 states have still taken no action on stay-at-home orders, and 16 have not on closing nonessential businesses.

“The sooner the better,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said of statewide stay-at-home orders. “Waiting until you get a lot of cases is the wrong strategy.”

Limited testing poses challenges to mapping COVID-19 Spread (Modern Healthcare, March 30)
The traditional way of mapping communicable diseases like COVID-19 tends to rely on first determining those who have the disease through testing, and then identifying those at risk, such as partners or coworkers who have come into contact with them, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

"That's still important to do," he said. "It's effective."

Fact check: Could your December cough actually have been coronavirus? Experts say more research is needed (USA Today, March 26)
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said he believes when researchers do more testing, they will probably find the disease was in the U.S. earlier than first believed.

"I believe at the end of this, when we do look back – and we will – we will probably find that this disease was here earlier than we thought," he said. "We also know that when we closed our borders, it was very, very leaky."

Protecting Grocery Store Workers and Shoppers from COVID-19(Forbes, March 23)
The most important focus now is curbing the spread of infectious disease, says George Benjamin, MD, president of the American Public Health Association.

“Obviously, if you’re symptomatic, if you have a fever or cough, you should stay home,” he says, but stores also need to have the right policies in place to keep their workers healthy.

“I continue to argue that paid sick leave is the most effective strategy to allow them to stay home,” says Benjamin. 

Johnson County daycare facilities remaining open amid school closures and COVID-19 pandemic (Shawnee Mission Post, March 19)
The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment on Tuesday said it concurred with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that all licensed child care facilities should remain open amid the COVID-19 pandemic to maintain child safety and provide access for those without additional child care options.

“There are some things that we need to do to keep our at-risk families able to work, and this is one,” said [APHA Executive Board member] Eldonna Chesnut, child care licensing director for the county. “Is there increased risk with kids in childcare facilities — yes. However, providers are an essential part of helping families get through this crisis and it is imperative that parents have a safe, licensed environment to leave their children while they are at work.”

Chesnut said county staff have looked at “the scientific evidence, community need, available resources and other factors before arriving at a decision.”

Take a deep breath: Making risk-based decisions in the coronavirus era (The Jamestown Sun, March 18)
“We ought to make risk-based decisions,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Expect change. Maybe daily. But also take a deep breath. Some things are still all right.

“At the end of the day, we have to take care of our kids, our family, we have to eat,” said Benjamin. “What people ought to do is think about how best to reduce risk and do as many less risky things as they can.”

So what about walking around the neighborhood?

“Yes, but not in groups,” said Benjamin, who added that he would wave at his neighbors while out for a stroll but “would not have a long conversation.”

Coronavirus: Will US be ready in the weeks ahead? (BBC News, March 17)
Dr Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, describes the situation as a partnership at the local, state and federal levels, but one that can have gaps based on funding or differing political views about how involved the government should be.

"We are not as prepared as we should be," Dr Benjamin told the BBC. "We have not had a year without a public health emergency since 2011. But this is the big one we have been predicting."

Among the issues at play are an "underfunded public health system, a just-in-time healthcare delivery system and an under-practiced preparedness system," according to Dr Benjamin.

How can you do social distancing at home? Tips for families as coronavirus spreads (Raleigh News & Observer, March 17)
What if a spouse or another family member is in self-quarantine due to the risk of exposure?

In that case, others should avoid using the same bedroom or bathroom, if possible, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told NPR.

Self Quarantine? Isolation? Social Distancing? What They Mean And When To Do Them (NPR, March 16)
A diagnosis of COVID-19 triggers isolation.

"Isolation is when you are sick, either at home or in the hospital," says Benjamin. "Infectious disease precautions are then much more rigid than in self-quarantine."

"State public health cuts hamper coronavirus containment" (ABC News, March 16)
Most state and local governments put public health on the back burner when it comes to their priorities and in some cases, reduce the amount dedicated to those offices, according to Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director at the American Public Health Association. Benjamin, a former secretary of the Maryland Department of Health, said these cuts left many states in a weakened position to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

“Public health, from a funding perspective, is a weak link of the system. We throw money at it when the crisis comes, but usually, it’s not enough and it’s too late,” he told ABC News.

To stop coronavirus in its tracks, here's your guide to 5 degrees of separation (PolitiFact, March 16)
Quarantining means staying home and away from other people as much as possible for that 14-day period. People in this circumstance who don’t live alone should do their best to retreat to their room or find a separate area in their home, and don’t go out shopping, eating or socializing.

"Don’t sleep in the same bedroom [with other family members] and try to use a separate toilet, if you can," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. "Be careful with dishes. They should go right from you into the dishwasher."

PoliticsNation With Al Sharpton (MSNBC, March 15)
“As a physician, I want to make sure the public knows that public health community has your back. We are very much concerned about those people who have coronavirus now and with respect to those people who have already died." -- APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD

"Social Distancing: Places and Events to Avoid Because of Coronavirus" (Huffington Post, March 14)
Right now, we don’t have any vaccine or antiviral medication to treat COVID-19 if people do get the disease. “So what we do is try to keep people away from one another and try to keep it from spreading in a variety of ways,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association...

Deciding whether or not to go is best approached by asking yourself a few questions, according to Pamela Aaltonen, professor emerita of nursing at Purdue University and past president of the American Public Health Association.

First, she says, consider how essential the travel really is. You should also find out what’s currently known about the number of cases at both ends of the travel (including layovers). Of course, “this is very challenging now because we’re not yet doing widespread testing,” Aaltonen said...

With so much uncertainty surrounding a rapidly spreading and potentially life-threatening disease, it can feel overwhelming. But Benjamin’s final words of wisdom should be reassuring: “People need to be informed, but not afraid.”

U.S. unions, groups urge government steps to protect workers from coronavirus (CNBC, March 13)
In a letter, the groups asked the Operational Safety and Health Administration to build a list of workers in need of protection, provide training to help workers reduce their own exposure, and creating a national exposure control plan.

“An adequate and immediate mandatory federal standard for infectious disease is critical to preventing the rapid spread of the disease to health care workers and first responders in particular,” the letter said.

Public Health expert says African Americans are at greater risk for death from coronavirus (The Undefeated, March 13)
For a whole host of economic, political and historical reasons, Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, says it’s a threat that African Americans need to take particularly seriously.

“We get a lot of misinformation circulating through our communities,” Benjamin said. “We fundamentally don’t trust some of the [non-black] institutions because they do not serve us well. We need to make sure our trusted institutions, clinicians of color, churches, community organizations, are better educated.”

"Coronavirus will hit the health system hard, and not all states are prepared" (Los Angeles Times, March 12)
Differences in the availability of paid sick time also mean many more workers in some states face pressure to stay on the job, even if they are ill, making it harder to contain the spread of disease.

“When you look across the country, there is just an enormous amount of variation,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, the longtime executive director of the American Public Health Assn.

“States that haven’t invested worry me the most, and their health statistics show the results,” Benjamin added. “But there seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding about why those investments are important.”

How Public Health Can Serve the Communities and Populations at the Greatest Risk for Being Left Behind (Public Health on Call, March 12)
Joshua Sharfstein: So what kinds of areas of distrust are risks here, for certain communities, around the coronavirus?

Georges Benjamin: Well, the big thing is that people are always worried that folks are not there for their best interest, or that they’re trying something new on them that they’ve not tried on anybody else before. So we have to make sure that people understand that we are giving them best practices and giving them the best advice. The way you do that is you speak clearly to people. You tell them what you know. You tell them what you don’t know. And you have to be there throughout the whole disease outbreak, and you have to come back after the outbreak is over, in order to make sure they understand that you’re there for the long haul.

"Face masks in national stockpile have not been substantially replenished since 2009(The Washington Post, March 10)
In late 2018, responsibility for managing the stockpile shifted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to a different part of the Department of Health and Human Services. That arm, headed by Kadlec, assistant secretary for preparedness and response (ASPR), already supervised the National Disaster Medical System, which deploys thousands of federal employees to help with major emergencies. That system has its own inventories of medical supplies and other equipment.

“Once we get into the situation where we have broad enough community spread and need to deploy the stockpile broadly, this will be a big test as to how well the shift to ASPR has worked,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

"States have 'immense' power to fight coronavirus(Roll Call, March 10)
The biggest problem we have is around readiness, driven by a lack of funding,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

Insufficient funding, he said, has left most states with significant public health vacancies, forcing them to move employees from other areas into infectious disease to address the outbreak.

"Coronavirus poses new test for strained public health system(The Hill, Jan. 30)
“We have not had a year in our country where we’ve not had a public health emergency to address and we’re continuing to do it on a shoestring budget,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA).