Harvard Medical School Program Director Says U.S. Needs To ‘Buckle Down’ For New Wave of Pandemic

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Greater Boston with Jim Braude
June 10, 2020

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassed two million Wednesday, with at least 21 states tracking rising numbers, according to a New York Times tally. The director of Harvard Medical School’s Program in Global Public Policy and Social Change warned that the substantial uptick in cases will likely occur nationwide.

“The reality is we, as a country, are going to be needing to buckle down for a new wave of this pandemic…it is only about to get worse because we have not seen the kind of policies, leadership, and willingness to really shut down what’s happening,” Dr. Vanessa Kerry, also the founder of public health non-profit Seed Global told Jim Braude on WGBH News’ Greater Boston Wednesday.

Kerry did compliment Governor Charlie Baker’s efforts to re-open the Commonwealth, stating the precautions his administration took were, “very thoughtful.” But she stressed that Massachusetts cases may increase during the summer months with the influx of travelers.

“We have to recognize that people are going to start moving around for summer, too. Cape Cod is going to be a hotbed for tourists, and we should expect and anticipate an influx of infections with that movement of people,” Kerry explained.

As a critical care physician in the intensive care unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, Kerry said focusing on supportive quarantine policies are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.

“If you look at a community like Chelsea, which is north of Boston, and has had one of the highest case incidences in the world. One of the ways that we have to help dismantle the chains of transmission are by supporting communities that don’t have the ability to socially distance are essential workers, don’t necessarily have access to information because of cultural language barriers,” she said. “[We have to] support them to be able to quarantine safely without worrying about their jobs, their family, their safety, and their well-being. And we have to be willing to make those investments or we’re going to be suffering from COVID for a lot longer.”

Kerry pointed to Vietnam as a model for successfully containing coronavirus. With a population of 97 million and a health system, she said that “is not nearly as resourced as [the U.S.],” the country has seen zero deaths.

Additionally, Kerry addressed the risks of coronavirus with the wave of demonstrations against police violence and racial injustice that began two weeks ago, when George Floyd was killed by an officer who pressed a knee into his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while detaining him.

“We have had millions more [Black people] die from racism than we have had die, you know, in the current COVID pandemic,” she said.

“Most people have been protesting peacefully, trying to maintain social distancing, have been wearing masks…And so, I think that what we have to realize is that there is a crisis that we also have to address in this moment, which is racism. We have an opportunity to look at what is a public health crisis in this country of years. We have an opportunity to try to dismantle that, too.”

Read the full article on WGBH.com


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