19: COVID-19 News Conference

State health officials held a virtual news conference with journalists Thursday to address the latest in the public health response to COVID-19. Dr. Nirav Shah, ASTHO President and Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr....

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State health officials held a virtual news conference with journalists Thursday to address the latest in the public health response to COVID-19. Dr. Nirav Shah, ASTHO President and Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Anne Zink, ASTHO President-Elect and Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska; and Dr. Thomas Dobbs, State Health Officer for the State of Mississippi, discuss vaccines, the Delta variant, and the impact of cases on hospitals and health care workers.

YouTube: ASTHO Media Briefing

Event: Two decades after 9/11

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for a Friday, September 3rd, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson. Here's today's news from the association of State and Territorial Health Officials. 


This is the place that I hoped we would never be at the pandemic. We have some of the highest case count, and honestly, the highest hospitalizations we've seen across the country. 


That's Alaska's chief medical officer, and ASTO president-elect Dr. Anne Zink one and three ASTO leaders. 

Speaking to reporters yesterday about the impact COVID-19 cases have had on the nation's healthcare system, the contagious Delta variant making its way across the United States, hitting unvaccinated people, especially hard. Also speaking to reporters, Dr. Nirav Shah, ASTO president and head of Maine center for disease control and prevention 


Nationwide a month ago, five weeks ago, and all of us briefing, we were talking about hotspots, but now with 96.6% of all counties in the United States seeing high or 
substantial levels of COVID transmission, we've moved beyond hotspots to a country-wide hot zone. As a result, in many places in the country, the choice is stark. Either you get a shot or you get COVID 


Just how bad is it? Dr. Thomas Dobbs is State Health Officer and Mississippi. Here's what he had to say. 



I know numbers say one thing, but anecdote to say something else. I was talking with the physician OB-GYN yesterday, and they had five women die in the hospital. 
This week, four of them, were pregnant. Three of them. They had to do an emergency C-section in the ICU and the moms didn't make it. The been, the babies were severely premature. 
This is the reality that we're looking at. And again, none of these individuals were vaccinated. 


All three worry about the healthcare system. Can it survive the surge of Delta cases? Here's Dr. Zink. 


I am seeing crowdsourcing for beds, thousands of miles away on Facebook groups at the other emergency medicine physicians and seeing, you know, 
trying to figure out how to hook up one vent for multiple patients. The choices that many practicing physicians are having to take on a daily basis right now across our country, 
because of the lack of healthcare capacity in this entire surge. As a young, healthy people showing up to the emergency department with COVID-19 is heartbreaking.


Dr. Dobb says the workload has led to fewer nurses on the job. 



What you're going to see is you're going to see less healthcare workers who are willing to work in hospitals. 
I know in Mississippi, we've been informed that we're of 2000 nurses, less than we were seven months ago. And why is that? Because we've worn them out. 
We can only ask so much of folks before they decide either, you know, to take an easier position or to retire altogether. It's a lot easier to burn out a nurse than it is to create a new one.


Recent media reports point to the experience in other countries suggesting that Delta peaks after two months, could that happen in the U.S. Dr. Shaw responds.


Personally, I'm deeply concerned there, of course, are some glimmers on the horizon that we may be nearing some sort of peak. I think it's too early to tell with any degree of certitude, whether that's the case or not. And even to the extent it is, the UK saw something of that effect. 

And then of course, after a slight diminution in cases is now back on the upswing. So even if we are at some sort of nominal peak, it really may be a question of when we resurge again, not a matter of if.


The trio spoke for an hour, two reporters listened to the full discussion using the Lincoln in the show notes. 

Finally, this morning, join ASHTO and a panel of national public health leaders for a discussion about preparedness two decades after nine 11. 

The virtual event is set for September 9th and features discussions about capacity funding and work to prepare for future challenges. Registration is free. Find a link to sign up for the event as well as a link to the ASTO media discussion in today's show notes. 

Also, remember to follow us on apple podcasts and Spotify, or listen on Alexa or Google assistant. 

And if you have a minute, please take time to leave us a rating and a review we're off on labor day, but we hope you'll make plans to join us next Tuesday morning for more ASTO news and information until then I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. 

Anne Zink MD FACEP

Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska

Thomas Dobbs MD MPH

State Health Officer, Mississippi Department of Health

James Blumenstock

Former Chief Program Officer, Public Health Practice, ASTHO

Nirav Shah MD JD

Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention; President of ASTHO