COVID-19 in Colorado: A Virtual Conversation Series
Our COVID-19 series has concluded its regular biweekly cadence with its 30th episode on April 7, 2021. We'll be back with bonus episodes in the future as new developments warrant. Thank you to our audience and to our partners at the Colorado School of Public Health for making this series possible. Recordings of all episodes are available at the Institute's YouTube channel.
All 30 episode writeups are available to view or download as a PDF.
Over the past year, we have faced a once-in-a-generation science and policy challenge. During that span, our knowledge about COVID-19 has improved significantly as we've worked to thwart the spread of the virus. We've witnessed tremendous innovation and collective sacrifice. Entire sectors of our society have been completely reshaped, perhaps forever. And through it all, we each have our own deeply personal stories to share.
• Rachel Herlihy, MD, MPH/MSPH, State Epidemiologist for the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment
• Cerise Hunt, PhD, MSW, Director for the Center for Public Health Practice and Assistant Professor in Community and Behavioral Health at Colorado School of Public Health
• Bobby LeFebre, Colorado Poet Laureate
• Traci Priebe, RN, BSN, CCRN, Charge Nurse in the medical ICU at the University of Colorado Hospital
• Jonathan Samet, MD, MS, Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental and Occupational Health and Dean of the Colorado School of Public Health
• George Sparks, President & CEO, Denver Museum of Nature & Science
COVID-19 has profoundly reshaped education, from K-12 all the way up to colleges and universities. Many of the challenges have been numerous and well-publicized: children struggling to keep up with virtual learning, parents juggling childcare with their own jobs, teachers wary to return to classrooms until vaccines quell the virus. The central role that schools play in our society has perhaps never been in greater focus. Yet the pandemic may offer unexpected opportunities as well, ushering in new tools and structures that could help schools emerge stronger on the other side, better prepared to help their students develop both in person and online.
Presenters: Rebecca Holmes, President & CEO of the Colorado Education Initiative; Christie Imholt, District Policy Director in the Office of the Superintendent, Aurora Public Schools; and Landon Pirius, Vice President for Organizational Effectiveness, Student Affairs, and Strategic Initiatives for the Colorado Community College System. Submit your questions in advance or live during the event for potential inclusion in the moderated Q&A discussion.
By nature, scientific research is a slow, steady and self-correcting process, built for the marathon rather than the sprint. Then, COVID-19 arrived. Over the past year, we've witnessed priorities and policies shift on the fly to concentrate on a singular goal like a modern day Manhattan Project or moon landing. Governments fast-tracked emergency authorization for vaccines. Public health officials and pharma companies became household names. Scientists raced to collectively publish tens of thousands of research papers, many of which bypassed peer review altogether. Grant dollars arrived in spades for coronavirus research while other projects were postponed indefinitely, perhaps never to be resumed. The long-term effects of this disruptive year of COVID on the scientific enterprise may not be fully realized for a decade.
Presenter: Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg, President of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
As COVID-19 variants emerge across the globe - particularly the more contagious B.1.1.7. - scientists are racing to understand how dangerous they might be while policymakers try to adjust health guidelines accordingly. Viruses are ever-changing by nature, and each mutated strain poses new and different challenges. What can epidemiology tell us about these new SARS-CoV-2 variants? And how can public health officials stay one step ahead?
Presenter: Dr. Angela Rasmussen, virologist at Georgetown University's Center for Global Health and Security
The distribution of highly effective COVID-19 vaccines is underway across the U.S., offering a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. The rollout to date, however, has been hampered by supply chain woes and a lack of unified strategy, leading to miscommunication between the federal government and the states as well as frustration among those left waiting for doses. As President Biden takes office, the question of national leadership is once again in focus as the country waits to see if the new administration and its agencies will be able to accelerate the pace of vaccinations and quell the virus.
Presenter: Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives and the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A COVID-19 Conversation with Governor Jared Polis
A Collaboration of the Colorado School of Public Health and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Watch the full episode and read the recap
Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Colorado on March 5, 2020, Governor Jared Polis has led the state's proactive response, balancing public safety with social activity and the economy. He has been at the helm during the greatest public health and policy challenge in more than a century. In our COVID webinar of 2021, he provided an update on vaccine distribution and shared his firsthand experiences and talk about what lies ahead for the new year.
Presenter: Jared Polis, Governor of Colorado
COVID-19 and influenza are both highly contagious respiratory illnesses that can manifest with similar symptoms. With flu season returning to the U.S., scientists and public health officials are closely monitoring the overlap and bracing for additional strain on healthcare resources. As the two diseases set out on a possible collision course, how should we be assessing risk and adapting responsibly? And what measures can Coloradans take to mitigate the threat of a double whammy?
Presenters: Jon Andrus, MD, Adjunct Professor and Director of Division of Vaccines and Immunization at the Colorado School of Public Health, and Suchitra Rao, MD, Associate Professor, Pediatrics-Pediatric Hospital Medicine at the Colorado School of Medicine.
Scientists, policymakers, and medical professionals have learned quite a bit about COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic. Nevertheless, many of the biggest questions – How effective are tests? How do we really know if social distancing is working? - remain salient to our public health response today and can now be updated with new data and new insights. In our next episode, we’re turning the floor over to you for a full 45 minutes of audience-driven Q&A. From testing to treatments to tracking the spread, what’s on your mind and what would you still like to know more about?
Presenters: Michelle Barron, MD, Professor of Medicine-Infectious Disease at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and Jude Bayham, Assistant Professor of Agricultural & Resource Economics at Colorado State University. They’ll be joined by C. Neill Epperson, MD, Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and Jonathan Samet, MD, MS, Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental and Occupational Health and Dean of the Colorado School of Public Health.
In our previous episode, we gained some national perspective on lessons learned during the first six months of COVID-19. On Monday, October 12, we’re turning our focus to Colorado. Since March, state public health officials have been grappling with the challenges of the pandemic and implementing new policies at a rapid pace. How has Colorado’s response evolved since that first wave of cases in the spring, and what insights have we gained about communication, testing, tradeoffs, and the efficacy of public health guidance?
Presenters: Jill Hunsaker Ryan, MPH, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Kacey Wulff, Senior Advisor for COVID-19 Response, Resilience, and Recovery in the Office of Governor Jared Polis.
By mid-March, the ongoing spread of COVID-19 began to affect American life in a big way. The NBA suspended its season. Flights, concerts, and conferences were abruptly cancelled. States began to implement full or partial closures of non-essential businesses. Scientists and public health officials raced to issue guidance, even as much about the disease remained unknown. Now, six months later, our collective knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 has evolved dramatically, both from an epidemiological perspective and a societal one. What have we learned so far about the effects of policy, the speed of research, and public trust in science that could help us in 2021?
Presenter: Georges C. Benjamin, MD, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association
The race for a COVID-19 vaccine has commanded international focus since the pandemic began, so where do things stand now that autumn is approaching? A number of vaccine candidates, including some from the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed initiative, have begun clinical trials. Experts have not ruled out the possibility of FDA approval in record time and mass distribution by early 2021. But as research proceeds at a breakneck pace and vaccines become a political hot button in the lead up to the November election, scientists must delicately balance speed, efficacy, and safety. What will the first “successful” vaccine look like, and which criteria should be used to make that determination?
Presenter: Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists and public health officials are still working toward consensus on a fundamental question: To what extent is transmission of the responsible virus (SARS-CoV-2) airborne and what is the size range of infectious particles? Research has shown that an infected person expels viral particles in “droplets” via sneezing or coughing and that masks, social distancing, and generally being outdoors can reduce the spread of the disease. People also produce small particles that may also be infectious. But much remains uncertain about how long those infectious droplets and smaller particles linger in the air and how far they might travel, particularly in enclosed settings. So what does the current science tell us about exposure indoors? And are there mitigation strategies that homes, schools, and businesses should think about adopting as winter approaches?
Presenters: Shelly Miller, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Jonathan Samet, Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental and Occupational Health and Dean of the Colorado School of Public Health.
COVID-19 has sent shock waves through every sector of the U.S. economy, leaving businesses to navigate an uncertain future and millions of workers out of a job. While some industries look poised to bounce back quickly once the pandemic recedes, others may struggle and/or be permanently reshaped. What will meaningful recovery look like in Colorado, and when might it arrive?
Presenters: Kelly Brough, President and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and Richard Wobbekind, Associate Dean for Business & Government Relations at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.
August 17: COVID-19 in Latin America
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Even as the coronavirus has come under some measure of control in other parts of the globe, Latin America has become a hotspot. As the pandemic has battered the region, it has jeopardized public health, devastated commerce, and exacerbated longstanding inequalities that threaten to derail years of social progress. Countries such as Mexico and Brazil are facing overwhelming caseloads, high death rates, and double-digit economic contractions. Latin America’s worsening COVID-19 plight will have ripple effects on the world stage for years to come, and it can also offer important lessons about global health policy as we re-evaluate our own preparedness for future disasters.
Presenters: Dr. Edwin Asturias, Professor of Pediatrics-Infectious Disease at the CU School of Medicine, Professor of Epidemiology and Director of Latin American Projects for the Center for Global Health at the Colorado School of Public Health and Dr. Mauricio Hernández Ávila, Director of Economic and Social Benefits at the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS).
August 10: COVID-19 & Mental Health
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For many Americans, the stresses of COVID-19 extend well beyond the virus itself. We may be feeling isolated after months of physical distancing, fearful for our own personal safety, or anxious about household finances and the state of the economy. Frustration, helplessness, depression, exhaustion, anger, grief ─ our emotions can run the gamut, and no two people will ever navigate trauma in quite the same way. Mental health is a difficult subject, one that’s often uncomfortable to broach even with those we’re closest with. But even as the country works to bring the coronavirus under control from an epidemiological perspective, medical caregivers caution that we cannot ignore the long-lasting psychological effects of living through a world-altering pandemic. So what can we do to help ourselves, our families, and our neighbors arrive at healthy outcomes during this period of extreme stress and uncertainty?
Presenters: Mercedez Lang and Michelle Tijerina, both practitioners and ambassadors for the Healthy Living Team at the Mental Health Center of Denver.
COVID-19 isn’t the first virus to make the leap from animals to humans, and if history is any guide, it won’t be the last. Novel zoonotic diseases can persist benignly inside an animal host for years, waiting patiently for an opportunity to jump to a new species and wreak havoc. We’ve seen other high-profile examples of these “spillover” events in recent decades, notably AIDS, Ebola, and SARS. Scientists have been working to better understand these transmission pathways in order to warn of new emerging threats. But there is still much to learn. Which conditions allow an animal-borne virus like COVID-19 to take hold in human populations? And what have researchers learned that might help us prevent future global outbreaks?
Presenters: Brian Foy, PhD and Tony Schountz, PhD, both Professors in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology at Colorado State University.
Amidst a nationwide resurgence of COVID-19, Colorado scientists, health officials, and policymakers continue to closely monitor the disease’s progression within the state. Mountain towns have seen an influx of summer visitors, bringing some economic relief, but also a rise in caseloads. Counties are continuing to navigate physical distancing guidelines for businesses while warily looking ahead to opening schools in the fall. Face mask usage — recently mandated statewide — remains a political flashpoint. Five months into the coronavirus epidemic, what have we learned and where does Colorado go from here?
Presenters: Jonathan Samet, MD, MS, Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental and Occupational Health and Dean of the Colorado School of Public Health; John M. Douglas, Jr., MD, Executive Director of the Tri-County Health Department; and Karen Koenemann, Public Health Director for Pitkin County.
COVID-19 has illustrated structural inequities in the American healthcare system that have persisted for centuries. Black Americans are dying of the virus at a higher rate than whites, despite making up a smaller percentage of the population. Majority-minority communities commonly lack access to testing sites and other medical resources. Black, Latino, and Native Americans are likelier to suffer from preventable illnesses and pre-existing health conditions, leaving them at greater risk during an epidemic. How did this come to be? And how can policymakers, scientists, health practitioners, and citizens help address these long-standing public health trends and move toward a more just and equitable system for all?
Part One presenters (July 13):
Fernando Holguin, MD, Director of the Latino Research & Policy Center at the Colorado School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine-Pulmonary Sciences & Critical Care and Director of Asthma Clinical and Research Programs at the University of Colorado School of Medicine
Cerise Hunt, PhD, MSW, Director for the Center for Public Health Practice and Assistant Professor in Community and Behavioral Health at Colorado School of Public Health
Spero M. Manson, PhD, (Pembina Chippewa), Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Psychiatry, Director of the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health, and the Colorado Trust Chair in American Indian Health within the Colorado School of Public Health
Part Two presenters: (July 20):
Alisha Brown, MNM, Senior Vice President, The Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities and Director of the be well Health and Wellness Initiative
Michael Cortés, MSW, MPP, PhD, Executive Director of the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization (CLLARO)
Jennifer Ho, PhD, Director of the Center for Humanities & the Arts and Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder and President of the Association of Asian American Studies
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised a number of complicated ethical questions for society, including if and when it is acceptable to restrict individual liberties to protect the public by enforcing quarantines, face masks, or event cancellations. Hospitals have had to confront the possibility of severe shortages and the potential need for rationing. And all of us have had to think carefully about our own personal and professional responsibilities in how we respond. Tensions between individual risk and communal safety have created flashpoints in communities, exposing broader disagreements over core values and priorities. In light of this, how can policymakers, scientists, and citizens best navigate these murky moral waters? And what do we owe to ourselves and to each other as human beings in the face of this global crisis?
Presenter: Matthew Wynia, MD, MPH, FACP, Professor of Medicine and Public Health and Director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
As COVID-19 spread rapidly around the world, so too did myths, exaggerations, and outright falsehoods. The flood of misinformation was often powerful enough to shape public perception and policy decisions. But in the face of ever-evolving guidance from experts and wall-to-wall media saturation, how can the public sort fact from fiction? What makes a particular source reliable – or not?
Presenters: Steven Goodman, MD, MHS, PhD, Associate Dean of Clinical and Translational Research and Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health and Medicine at Stanford University, and Elizabeth Skewes, PhD, Department of Journalism Chair and Associate Professor in the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Summer is typically the season of camping, grilling, and lounging by the pool, but some of our favorite warm weather activities could look and feel very different this year due to ongoing COVID-19 precautions. So what should Coloradans expect over the next few months? Is it safe to send kids to camp? Will I be able to go swimming? Will vacation destinations be open for business? And will the coronavirus make a comeback?
Presenters: Rachel Herlihy, MD, MPH/MSPH, State Epidemiologist for the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment and Jonathan Samet, MD, MS, Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental and Occupational Health and Dean of the Colorado School of Public Health.
Colorado’s research community has responded swiftly to the COVID-19 challenge, with new projects already underway on vaccine development, diagnostic tools, biomedical countermeasures, and food system impact mitigation. Historically, technological investment has aided our response against diseases before they emerge, in the midst of outbreaks, and during the lengthy global recovery. Many exciting avenues of study are happening in our Colorado backyard right now. But what does applied research really look like, and when might we see the impacts?
Presenter: Alan Rudolph, Ph.D., MBA, Vice President for Research at Colorado State University.
Coloradans have increased their time spent at home since mid-March following statewide policy interventions implemented by Governor Polis and increased social distancing guidelines set by essential businesses. Using digital trace data, scientists have been able to study general patterns in population mobility during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results find noteworthy trends, including variation across different areas of the state; a voluntary reduction in movement even before Stay-at-Home orders took effect; and recent reversals in the overall amount of time spent in public.
COVID-19: On the Front Lines
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As the battle against COVID-19 unfolds each day in America’s hospitals, doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other caregivers are working tirelessly to diagnose, treat, and improve patient outcomes. Their selfless efforts in the face of an unprecedented epidemic have earned commendation nationwide, and their stories from the front lines help us look beyond statistics to understand the true human impact of the disease.
Presenters: Marc Moss, MD, the Roger S. Mitchell Professor of Medicine and Head of the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Traci L. Priebe, RN, BSN, CCRN, Charge Nurse in the medical ICU at the University of Colorado Hospital.
For weeks, the availability and accessibility of COVID-19 testing has dominated the national discourse. Who can get tested? How quickly do the results come back? Is there enough widespread testing to identify and contain new hotspots? In such a rapidly-shifting landscape, guidance can change quickly, leaving the public with more questions than answers.
Presenter: Kyle M. Brown, Ph.D., Deputy for Mass Testing and Isolation Support on Colorado’s COVID Innovation Response Team
The search for a COVID-19 vaccine has taken center stage, with all eyes on scientists’ efforts to develop safe and effective treatments at a breakneck pace. With so much of the world’s population still susceptible to infection, a return to any semblance of social normalcy may hinge on widespread inoculations, therapeutic solutions, and herd immunity. But what will a successful vaccine rollout look like, and when might it arrive?
Controlling the COVID-19 Epidemic in Colorado
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As Colorado moves into the next phase of its COVID-19 response, many residents are wondering: Now what? Is it safe to go back to work? Will there be a second wave of infections? Which epidemiological models are useful? And what can the data tell us about the weeks and months to come?
Presenter: Jonathan Samet, MD, MS, Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental and Occupational Health and Dean of the Colorado School of Public Health
The Institute for Science & Policy is committed to publishing diverse perspectives in order to advance civil discourse and productive dialogue. Views expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, or its affiliates.