24: Reaction to the COVID-19 Strategy

ASTHO CEO Michael Fraser shares member feedback about President Biden’s new COVID-19 strategy; Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s State Health Officer, explains the pandemic’s impact on the nation’s hospitals; ASTHO issues a revised COVID-19...

ASTHO CEO Michael Fraser shares member feedback about President Biden’s new COVID-19 strategy; Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s State Health Officer, explains the pandemic’s impact on the nation’s hospitals; ASTHO issues a revised COVID-19 vaccine comparison guide; and we remind you about a crisis leadership bootcamp that’s online and available now.

White House: Path out of the Pandemic

CDC: COVID data tracker weekly review

ASTHO Resource: COVID-19 vaccine comparison

ASTHO Learning: How to be prepared to serve during COVID-19

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Monday, September 13th, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.

Here's today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.


The vaccination mandates included in President Biden's plan to end the COVID-19 pandemic are but one part of the strategy. The plan he outlined Thursday night also calls for sending more people to serve on the pandemic's front lines and it ramps up production of testing resources.

Hospitals definitely need the help—they're buckling under the pressure of infected people seeking care. The CDC says more than 12,000 people are checking into U.S. hospitals each day.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs is the state health officer in Mississippi.


Intensive care room space and staff is so critically overburdened that in most places in the state of Mississippi, unless you're on life support, you're not in intensive care unit.

You are managing people in spaces in tent hospitals and other locations that normally—obviously we would normally have those folks in intensive care for monitoring in case they had trouble.

We are not able to do the normal quality of care that we would want to because we are overburdened.



The Biden plan is called Path Out of the Pandemic.

ASTHO CEO Mike Fraser has been talking with states and territories about the details. He tells us what he's hearing in today's morning conversation.

ASTHO members have had some time to consider the president's plan. What are they saying about it now?


Well, you know, I think we need probably some more time and we've had the opportunity to meet with the administration to learn more about some of this over the last day.

I think members are really encouraged by the focus on vaccination and the president's leadership specific to urging all Americans to get vaccinated. We know that vaccination is a primary prevention strategy for COVID, and I think all of our members support the goal of getting all Americans that can be vaccinated, vaccinated as soon as possible.


What do your members like or dislike about the plan?

Are they saying anything about the details at all?


You know, I think that the dislikes are really on the political side more than they are on the public health side. I think as public health professionals, we're all encouraged by, you know, making it the default for folks to be vaccinated.

You know, I think politically, however, we know there's a great diversity of opinion when it comes to mandates. And I think we've already heard from some governors that they plan to sue the federal government over this. It's going to play out in the courts and that's going to become a political-legal issue.

But, you know, at its core, the goal here is presidential leadership pushing the continued need for vaccination. There's also some other pieces in there specific to testing and testing strategy and keeping schools open.

You know, we've heard from health officials over the last few weeks that they are seeing significant numbers of students having to quarantine because of outbreaks in schools. And again, if teachers and staff get vaccinated and practice, you know, appropriate masking where they can, it's just going to help everybody.

And we should be focusing on the public health part of this, not the politics part of this. I think the president can't say anything without it being interpreted politically, unfortunately. So, I think that's how most people are viewing this.


You have to imagine what would happen if another 100 million people were fully vaccinated against COVID.


Well, you do. And that would be a wonderful thing. And I think we would see what we all want happen, which is a return to some more of the typical things we do in life.

COVID is going to be around for a while, but it doesn't have to be a virus that causes our healthcare system to completely collapse, and people to have to postpone needed care because ICUs are overcapacity, and it doesn't have to be that our kids can't go to school in person.

But again, we're in this really tumultuous time, especially with the Delta variant.


His remarks included 25 actions that he wants to take.

Did he leave anything out?


Well, we're still assessing that.

I think the thing that was left out that we want to continue to talk with the administration about is how we implement this at the state level, how state health officials can support the president's goals regardless of their state, and really speak tactically to what it means to play this out in every state and territory across the nation.

So, it's less about a particular activity and I think at this point more about the process of how we can continue to engage with the White House across all of the spectrum of our health officials to push the vaccination campaign forward and, you know, reach the goal we all want, which is as many Americans as can be vaccinated as soon as possible.



Also this morning, there's another update to ASTHO's COVID-19 vaccine comparison document, available now.

It includes the latest information about all COVID-19 vaccines and it's just in time for the nation's booster shot campaign—that's expected to start in about a week, pending federal safety approvals of the Pfizer formula.


Finally today, don't miss the chance to improve your crisis leadership skills with an online course developed by ASTHO and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The COVID-19 bootcamp will teach you about incident command structures, crisis communication, and data systems, among other topics.


Find the link to the boot camp in the show notes, along with links to President Biden's strategy to end the pandemic, the vaccine comparison guide, and the CDC's COVID data tracker.


Also, remember to follow us on Apple Podcasts or 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.


Join us tomorrow morning for more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition.



Thomas Dobbs MD MPH

State Health Officer, Mississippi Department of Health