The November issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice (JPHMP) is titled COVID-19: Ongoing Challenge. While the pandemic has subsided, the public health challenge remains with 400 deaths daily and a new booster just now available tailored to the Omicron variant. JPHMP continues to receive numerous articles focusing on COVID-19 forming the focus of this important issue. The lead commentary by Y. Tony Yang and Sara Schaffer DeRoo expresses concerns about medical misinformation and the need for health care professionals to communicate accurate evidence-based information. As an example, a small number of physicians recommend discredited treatments, such as ivermectin, which are not only ineffective but can be harmful. The authors set forth recommendations involving state medical boards.
Potter and colleagues from Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Association of Public Health Laboratories write that the COVID-19 pandemic has strained public health laboratories. Their team conducted interviews of laboratory personnel in 28 states through the beginning of the pandemic to mid-2021. They documented longstanding gaps related to the early problems with testing, funding of laboratory workforce, supply chain problems, and lack of clear guidance from federal leadership. Although laboratories were eventually able to overcome these problems, the later appearance of monkeypox resulted in similar issues.
Virtual health care has become a hallmark of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kathryn Teng, Aleece Caron, and co-authors have contributed a commentary “Telehealth Adoption: Challenges and Opportunities from the Lens of Academic Primary Care." Their hospital system at Case Western Reserve mounted a transition to telehealth medicine in March of 2020. This large safety net system transformed from in-person care to telehealth visits. These included telecommunication through telephone and MyChart video. Also in this issue is a related article by Antonio Neri and co-authors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) titled “Telehealth and Public Health Practice in the United States--Before, During, and After the COVID-19 Pandemic." Telehealth accounted for less than 1% of all Medicare Fee-For-Service outpatient visits in the United States in 2019 but grew to 46% of all visits by April 2020. Changes in reimbursement and licensure policies during the COVID-19 pandemic is the explanation for this marked change.
Christopher Dunphy and co-authors at CDC report on a study of the association between state-issued mask mandates and changes in hospitalizations at the county level in the United States. Of interest, the state issuing of mask mandates was associated with an average of 3.6 fewer daily COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people. They conclude that re-imposing mask mandates in indoor and congested areas may be considered as part of community mitigation.
Deborah Barnes-Josiah and co-authors from the Public Health Institute, Oakland California, report that case investigation and contact tracing, while labor intensive, can help reduce the spread of infectious disease. They find that the effectiveness of these programs depends on their ability to reach their intended audience. There was significant variation by respondents' demographics and other characteristics in their willingness to be interviewed and provide information.
A supplemental issue sponsored by CDC publishes with our November issue: Public Health and Public Safety Partnerships to Reduce Drug Overdoses. Guest editors are Sasha Mital from CDC and Mallory O'Brien from the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University. Drug overdose deaths have a great impact on our communities. Multisectoral collaboration is critical to saving lives and addressing this epidemic. Two key partners in this response are between public health and public safety (PH/PS) agencies. These efforts are detailed in this issue.
Lloyd F. Novick, MD, MPH Justin B. Moore, PhD, MS
Editor-in-Chief Associate Editor