38: Wildfire and Hurricane Preparedness

Dr. Marcus Plescia, ASTHO’s Chief Medical Officer, discusses the appropriate role of monoclonal antibodies in the COVID-19 response; ASTHO has a Q/A for public health teams who need to explain the CDC’s revised guidance for pregnant or...

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Dr. Marcus Plescia, ASTHO’s Chief Medical Officer, discusses the appropriate role of monoclonal antibodies in the COVID-19 response; ASTHO has a Q/A for public health teams who need to explain the CDC’s revised guidance for pregnant or breastfeeding individuals; Margaux Haviland, ASTHO’s Director of Preparedness and Response Coordination, details EARTH-EX 2021, billed as the largest resilience exercise in history; and ASTHO welcomes several new state and territorial health officials to its ranks.

ASTHO Blog Article: Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and COVID-19 vaccines: Seven things to know

Webpage: EARTH EX 2021

ASTHO Webpage: Member directory

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Friday, October 1st, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.

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


Demand for monoclonal antibodies to help patients sickened by COVID-19 has soared, but the therapy is no replacement for vaccines.

ASTHO chief medical officer, Dr. Marcus Plescia, addressed the role of the treatments in a recent conversation on KCBS News radio in San Francisco.


This is a really important therapy for people who have developed COVID, particularly people who are at high risk for complications of COVID like being hospitalized or even dying.

And, you know, I'm not sure we've had—there hasn't been a lot of interest in this treatment in the past. But I think as we saw these surges, particularly in some of the states in the South, people realize this was another tool that we had to help—not prevent COVID, but prevent the complications of COVID—and it started being widely used.


While the treatments are available, Plescia tells KCBS listeners that the goal ought to be to avoid getting sick in the first place.


Our recommendation in public health is to get vaccinated. I mean, that is the best way to avoid getting into this kind of a situation.

But for people who haven't been vaccinated, or even perhaps for people who've been vaccinated but they've had a breakthrough, then this is another tool for us. And I think we're beginning to really put that into play and use it more often, and I think that's very important. I think it will be very valuable.



Moms who breastfeed their babies have had lots of questions about COVID-19 vaccines.

Now, ASTHO has a Q&A for public health teams who need to explain the CDC's revised guidance for pregnant or breastfeeding individuals. The document addresses vaccine uptake among pregnant people, miscarriage, and the infertility myth.

The resource can be found using a link in today's show notes.


The largest resilience exercise in history is happening now, and ASTHO members can be a part of it.

The exercise is called EARTH-EX. The focus of the online training is wildfire and hurricane readiness.

Margaux Haviland is ASTHO's director of preparedness and response coordination. She tells us more about this unique training in today's morning conversation.

How has COVID changed preparedness exercises?


So, the pandemic has really caused a lot of organizations to reevaluate what they're doing for exercises because preparedness exercises really are essential for building and sustaining critical infrastructure capabilities, preparedness response, recovery activities, and mitigation; and, like for COVID, there's been a lot of these activities that haven't been able to happen because of social distancing and infection control protocols.

And so, a lot of organizations have had to rethink what they're doing, and change the assumptions, and change their tactics, and made adjustments. And so, I think there's still a lot of organizations who are trying to catch up on that, knowing that COVID isn't slowing down.


Let's talk about EARTH-EX.

What's the focus of the training?


So, EARTH-EX is actually the world's largest cross-sector resilience exercise. And yes, like you said, it's a virtual exercise and it's put on by the Electrical Infrastructure Security Council.

So, basically, it's a virtual exercise. It kind of gives you some videos to move you through the exercise, it provides you a different scenarios and things, and it has different sectors you can play in. So, it's really catered to the specific kind of organization and/or work that you do. So, there's even a family or individual sector that you can participate in.

So, ASTHO will be doing this later next month, and we will be participating in the emergency support function sector and also healthcare.


Why is it important to continue these events when we're all still trying to stay six feet apart?


So, it's especially important to continue to do these things, because right now we're operating in, you know, multiple emergencies at once in many different states across the country. And maintaining these levels of preparedness in these operational areas is essential for these additional functions and strategies to be in place while you're having these competing priorities. You have states that are competing—there are fires, there are uncontrolled forest fires, with also mitigating the COVID pandemic.

So, it's really trying to maintain that preparedness on every sector while you're responding. So, doing these types of activities where you can kind of evaluate those things in a safe environment where it's virtual and you don't have to put anybody at risk is a great way to kind of take the temperature of what you're doing and what you've planned for.


The training is live right now and available only until October 31st.


Finally this morning, ASTHO welcomes several new state and territorial health officials to the ranks of public health experts working to keep communities safe.

They include: Dr. Manisha Juthani, commissioner designee at the Connecticut Department of Public Health; Donald Kauerauf, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services; and Paula Tran, state health officer at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.


Find a link to their bios, along with links to everything else mentioned today, in the show notes.


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 Monday morning for more ASTHO news and information.

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

Margaux Haviland MPH

Director of Preparedness, ASTHO

Marcus Plescia MD MPH

Chief Medical Officer, ASTHO