186: 2022 COVID-19 Strategy Session

Dr. Marcus Plescia, ASTHO’s Chief Medical Officer, joins the show from the ASTHO COVID-19 Summit in Washington D.C. to discuss his expectations from the summit and the COVID-19 response going forward.

Dr. Marcus Plescia, ASTHO’s Chief Medical Officer, joins the show from the ASTHO COVID-19 Summit in Washington D.C. to discuss his expectations from the summit and the COVID-19 response going forward.

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Wednesday, May 25th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, for a special conversation from the ASTHO COVID-19 Summit in Washington, D.C.


We caught up with ASTHO's chief medical officer, Dr. Marcus Plescia, to talk about expectations from the meeting and how it might help impact the response going forward.

This is day two of a big meeting going on in Washington, D.C. with ASTHO, its members, and other partners. So, what's happening today? What happened yesterday?


So, day one and day two have been very, very exciting. I mean, yesterday we kicked things off. We had federal partners and our state partners at the table, and most of them were here. I mean, it was great to have people together and really trying to work through the issue at hand.

And the issue at hand on day one is what do we do going forward? How do we sustain our response to COVID? People are tired of COVID, people don't want to wear their masks anymore—but it's not going away, and we're the public health professionals who have to deal with that. So, that was the conversation.

It was very exciting because it started off as a series of presentations—mostly from federal partners, which were excellent—but then, in the afternoon, it moved into discussion. I mean, you know, we had the federal partners still there as discussing the subject matter experts, but we had our members there saying, "Well, yeah, that's great, but that's not working for these reasons." And we were really able to kind of struggle with what are some of the solutions, but then what are the ways to overcome these challenges to those solutions?

And I don't know that everything from that has crystallized yet, but I think as we step back and look at the notes and look at the conversations, we're going to be in a much better position to be able to advise and inform our members about some of the things they can provide leadership around going forward.


Is the hope to come out of this meeting with a sense of a plan for at least the rest of the year?


Yeah. I mean, the big thing is what do we do in the next three to six months? I mean, we're really trying to take advantage of where we are right now, which is a much stronger position than we were in two years ago—even though we're all frustrated, we're in a much stronger place—and how do we really capitalize on that and get ready for the next three to six months so that our response is even better.

And I think we'll come away from this—I mean, some of it is just the opportunity to be with colleagues and talk things through, but I also really feel quite confident that we're hearing some things that we can put down on paper and we can begin to really try to push out and make sure everybody else has heard. And hopefully some very tangible and clear strategies of, like, here's the things to start leading on.


You're in the middle of this from many different perspectives—not just in Washington, but down in Atlanta where the CDC is. Have you heard anything yet or do you think you'll hear anything that is groundbreaking or surprising or that might change the game as we go forward into the rest of 2022?


Well, what I was really encouraged by is that some of the things that we've begun to articulate at ASTHO about things that need to happen—there's some things we need to anticipate—we were hearing that on day one from some of the federal partners. So, things like the fact that the Federal Emergency Act—those things are going to go away and when they do, expanded Medicaid coverage for everything's going to go unless states step in and make changes to their own Medicaid programs. And we had people saying that, you know, from multiple sectors. So, it was hard to miss that.

There were a number of things we've been trying to push forward that I think really got reinforced in this. And that's probably—it's not groundbreaking, but in some ways it's good to know that we were starting to get on the right track. And we had things that happened on day one that really, I think, helped push us along and get further momentum on some of the things that we need to do.


Overall, time well-spent?


Excellent. Well, and again, it's been two years since we've seen some of these people. I mean, we haven't seen our own members face-to-face in two years. We haven't seen our colleagues at the CDC who are so important to us, and they really stepped up and came out. I was amazed at how many people from CDC are here in person



That'll do it for today's newscast. We're back tomorrow morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Marcus Plescia MD MPH

Chief Medical Officer, ASTHO