That Celebrity Interview: Dr. Richard Besser

By Valder Beebe
Columnist

The worldwide pandemic continues to be the central focus as the Valder Beebe Show invited Dr. Richard Besser, into the studio to clarify aspects of COVID-19, how public health is the roadmap to a safe and equitable economic recovery, and why it’s important that Americans hear from public health officials daily during a pandemic. The United States is experiencing a massive surge in coronavirus cases and deaths, overwhelming local healthcare systems, and forcing several states to delay their economic recovery efforts. Compounding the problem is the politicization of the pandemic. Public health officials have been harassed and threatened, and some policymakers have based reopening decisions on political whims rather than sound science. It is more critical than ever that government and community leaders follow a public health roadmap to economic recovery. To do this, we must understand how the pandemic is playing out at the neighborhood level, ensuring that all people are considered and cared for—particularly people of color and essential workers who continue to die at disproportionately higher rates.

Today, data collection efforts are woefully inadequate, and as a result, communities across the nation remain in the dark about how this pandemic is truly playing out; complicating efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Dr. Besser, who is also president & CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—explains that “data deficits that vary greatly state to state and locality to the locality will lock in our disturbing status quo,” which will further exacerbate reopening efforts that have been “erratic, unsafe and profoundly unjust.” He urges data collection efforts by race, ethnicity, age, sex, and ZIP code, and he calls for federal funding for states and localities so they have the resources to implement the stronger collection protocols. Dr. Besser notes that the CDC and local health departments need adequate funding and support to use their public platforms to share timely and critical information to keep Americans safe and guide ongoing recovery efforts. Dr. Richard Besser’s publicists provided text in conjunction with the Valder Beebe Show.

VBS: Dr. Besser can you give us an update on COVID-19?

RB: Valder, I think we are in a really good situation right now with COVID-19. The reason I say this, we are seeing a clash in public health messages. Some officials are saying this is a critical time. You will hear other leaders saying this is going to go away. This is not going to go away. I like to refer citizens to local public health officials, this will tell us what is going on in our own communities. I also like going to the CDC web site.

VBS: What kind of local information can we find?

RB: Information about current policies, about business, school, and workplace status….

Complete interview: soundcloud.com/valderbeebeshow 

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