Epi Faculty News

Burke talks about how Pittsburgh’s virus success fizzled in crowded bars, eateries

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AP – Epidemiologist Donald S. Burke said a preliminary review of mobility data shows the recent spike is consistent with an outbreak fueled by a narrow demographic such as younger people at bars and restaurants. As a second tier of hot-spot cities, Pittsburgh is still fertile ground for the virus. “The real question is are we going to overwhelm the hospital capacity in our region? Are we going to have the number of ICU beds and ventilators?”  

Gary-Webb testifies at PA Democratic Health Committee on Black COVID-19 Equity Coalition

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EPI's Tiffany Gary-Webb presented testimony on COVID-19 disparities and our equity response at the July 15 House Democratic Policy Committee hearing on COVID-19 Health Disparities, impressing Representative Stephen Kinsey who wants to follow-up with Gary-Webb to connect the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh groups and using the Pittsburgh group as a model for others.   

Why are minorities getting hit harder by COVID-19? Partly because of systemic racism, says Gary-Webb

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THE MORNING CALL - EPI's Tiffany Gary-Webb, member of the Pittsburgh Black Covid-19 Equity Coalition, said there is a lack of robust and accessible testing, and that testing sites are not concentrated in communities of color. “We know that there’s disproportionate impacts, so we really think interventions now are desperately needed,” she said. “The narrative is clear, so now we really need to take action.”  

Burke on Allegheny County’s increase in opioid overdose deaths

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POST-GAZETTE - “The epidemic has a lot of drivers that go deep into society. It’s a combination of the persons who are susceptible to drug use because of unemployment and a sense of despair in many parts of our country,” Dean Emeritus Donald Burke said. And now that the world is in the middle of a pandemic where stay-at-home orders leave people isolated, unemployed, and stressed, he doesn’t doubt there will be an increase in 2020.  

What the Allegheny County Health Department is doing to address health disparities. An open letter to the community.

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NEXT PITTSBURGH - Allegheny County, like Minneapolis, has substantial racial disparities that impact all of us. Our communities are starkly divided along racial and ethnic lines. With these lines come distinct differences in access to housing, education, transportation and employment. These differences translate directly to worse health outcomes among our communities of color. In Allegheny County, black people have dramatically higher rates of b... 

Masks and Much More: Public Health in the Time of COVID-19

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PITTSBURGH CURRENT—"Green is associated with 'go,' 'all clear,' 'nothing to worry about'—but during this pandemic, green could not be further from the truth." Doctoral candidate Chantele Mitchell-Miland (EPI '20) and advisor EPI's Dara Mendez explain why we all still need to be vigilant and practice infection prevention precautions. The authors discuss transmission, testing and tracing, disparate impacts, and the mental health toll, calling for ... 

Coronavirus case increases and risky social behavior worry Newman

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PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER – The uptick may be linked to an increase in young adults not social distancing, so officials suspended the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption at bars and restaurants. The rise in cases suggests people don’t understand what the state’s “green” phase meant, said Anne B. Newman, EPI chair. “I think people took the green to mean that everything was fine and there wasn’t a problem.”  

Mair encourages risk priorities as a surge of coronavirus infections continues in Allegheny County

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90.5 WESA – Social epidemiologist Christina Mair has been thinking for weeks that the county needs to close bars. She acknowledges the economic repercussions but said it might help keep infection rates low enough that kids can return to school in the fall. “It’s the risk-benefit,” she added. “Where are the places where allowing more risk because they're more important?”  

University draws on own experts to guide health and safety decisions

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PITTWIRE - The new Healthcare Advisory Group, headed by Anantha Shekhar, new senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of Pitt Med, will monitor the health status of the campus and ensure compliance with legal regulations. Members, including HPM’s Mark Roberts, EPI’s Anne Newman, EOH’s Sally Wenzel, will develop recommendations for the Pitt community.  

Brent on how brief interventions are tied to lower repeat suicide attempts

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The fewer who attempt suicide, the fewer that die by suicide. These results have "important clinical implications" that should motivate healthcare systems to implement brief interventions, commented epidemiologist David Brent (’87 Hyg) and Nadine M. Melhem. “We need to be prepared with brief suicide preventive interventions that every clinician could deliver face to face or through telemedicine.”  

Health Department Responses

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EPI's Catherine Haggerty and HPM's Wendy Braund lead a conversation about the health department response to COVID-19 at the local and state levels. Haggerty starts the conversation with a discussion of the approaches, impact, and challenges of containment and mitigation efforts at the county level. Braund continues the conversation by comparing and contrasting the response at the state level.   

Fabisiak/Brink study highlights environmental injustice in Pittsburgh: Poor, minority neighborhoods see higher rates of deaths from air pollution

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ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH NEWS – EOH's James Fabisiak EPI's LuAnn Brink (IDM '98, EPI '96) estimate that 40 percent of the county's air pollution-related heart disease deaths occur where 20 percent or more individuals live in poverty and/or 30 percent or more are a racial minority. Study data will be used to evaluate the impact of environmental justice on the health of our county communities.  

Lawmakers vote to end Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 emergency, but Gov. Wolf says it’s not over. Burke is concerned.

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PENN LIVE - Epidemiologist Donald Burke said, “The reason our case rates are as low as they are right now is exactly because of these emergency orders and the business closures and mitigation efforts that have followed. To pull back completely from these protections now… would be unwise in the extreme, and bordering on suicidal,” Burke said. “I really feel that strongly about it.”  

Gary-Webb on the new Pittsburgh coalition tackling racial inequities and the pandemic

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WESA - Coalition scientists have pushed to get more coronavirus testing into communities of need. To get that done, EPI’s Tiffany Gary-Webb said they mapped out where Black families live in poverty and lack access to quality medical care, and then created an overlay showing where the federally qualified county health centers were located. That model allowed the council to effectively increase access to testing within that area.  

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