This May/June issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice contains a series of articles on COVID-19 that have important policy implications for the prevention and response to this pandemic. The lead scientific article by Marielle Fricchione and co-authors from the Chicago Department of Health describes reopening in-person education in the Archdiocese school setting in Chicago. This article represents the real-time experience of the reopening of the nation's largest private school system. The findings of this study indicate that the COVID-19 attack rate for students and staff was lower than for the community overall. An accompanying editorial by Chrissie Juliano and LaQuandra Nesbitt emphasizes that in-person education is essential for the social and emotional well-being of children. Data from the Chicago study adds to the evidence that reopening schools is a safe and sound policy. As this issue goes to press, various studies and efforts to vaccinate teachers and school staff have led to a national policy to open schools to in-person learning. We look forward to ending a year where students and their families have suffered from the disadvantages of virtual learning and social isolation.
Heather Pierce, of the Association of American Medical Colleges, writes about how the COVID-19 vaccine rollout revealed our strengths but also the flaws in our public health infrastructure. Vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna were delivered to states only 11 months after the SARS-CoV-2 virus was sequenced. This astounding achievement was coupled with a delivery system that left many recipients confused and frustrated. Each state needed to created systems to communicate vaccine priorities to the public, register people for appointments, and ensure those vaccinated would get a second appointment. The organizations tasked to carry out these plans lacked sufficient resources and were overburdened. Shortly before this issue went to press, a third vaccine by Johnson & Johnson, only requiring one injection, was authorized by the FDA. President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act on March 11, 2021, and also announced additional vaccine purchases that will enable all Americans to be eligible for vaccination as of May 1, 2021.
Erika Martin (Rockefeller College of Public Affairs) and co-authors Guthrie Birkhead and David Holtgrave (University at Albany School of Public Health) have contributed a commentary on the key problem of the vaccine rollout: maintaining a focus on health equity. There has not been an equitable distribution of vaccines, particularly when considering the racial and ethnic disparities in the incidence of COVID-19. A group of articles in this issue examines this disparity, including a study by Anne Gagliotti of Morehouse Medical College.
Martha Montgomery and co-authors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe the logistics of establishing and operating isolation and non-congregate hotels for people living homeless with or without COVID-19 but who are at risk for severe illness. An article by Williams and co-authors describe their experience in making Miami-Dade County COVID-19 surveillance data accessible for local policy makers.
With our May issue, we are publishing a supplemental issue “HRSA's Investment in Public Health." Guest editors Paul Jung and Sophia Russell have gathered reports from preventive medicine residencies sponsored by HRSA. The projects collected in this supplement illustrate the importance of the specialty with respect to HRSA priorities ranging from vaping and e-cigarettes to the opioid epidemic and COVID-19. Graduates of HRSA-sponsored preventive medicine residency programs are ready and capable of incorporating medical care and population health into health departments, health centers, and the health system.
Listen to the May 2021 episode of The Editor's Podcast here: https://bit.ly/3rFT8c3
Lloyd F. Novick, MD, MPH Justin B. Moore, PhD, MS
Editor-in-Chief Associate Editor