Public Health On Call

By Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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Experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health offer science and evidence-based insights on the public health news of the day. The current focus is the global outbreak of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

Episode Date
En Espanol: Lo Que Necesitamos Saber Sobre COVID-19

Una entrevista entre Monica Guerrero Vazquez, una graduada de La Escuela De Salud Publica de Johns Hopkins y Dra. Kathleen Page del Hospital Johns Hopkins sobre el virus que está afectando al mundo, incluyendo lo que podemos hacer para protegernos.

Apr 03, 2020
COVID-19 and the Potential for Prescription Drug Shortages

What does a global pandemic mean for the world’s drug supply chain? Howard Sklamberg, lawyer and former FDA deputy commissioner, talks to Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the threats that COVID-19 poses to medications for everything from cancer to diabetes to hypertension.

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Apr 03, 2020
Eric Toner, Healthcare Preparedness Expert, Answers Your COVID-19 Questions

The Center for Health Security is back with another round of expert answers to your most-asked COVID-19 questions. If we reopen everything back up, what is the risk that we’ll have a new surge of infections? As China considers loosening restrictions, how are they making those decisions? Why aren’t there human temperature monitors in public places like airports, hospitals, and grocery stores? Is anyone considering breast milk for antibody therapy? Can two positive people quarantine together? How many people will actually get COVID-19? What are the most important unanswered questions right now?

Eric Toner of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security addresses questions submitted to

Apr 03, 2020
COVID-19 in Prisons, Jails, and Detention Centers

As public health experts stress the importance of hygiene and social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, what does this mean for the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the U.S.? Johns Hopkins Infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Chris Beyrer talks to Stephanie Desmon about the difficulties of protecting people in these facilities, the low-risk/high-reward strategy of releasing those held on administrative misdemeanors, and how undocumented people may be one of our most vulnerable populations.

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Apr 02, 2020
What it’s Like to Treat Patients with COVID-19—A Doctor’s Perspective

Caring for patients with COVID-19 requires a new playbook in many ways. Dr. Brian Garibaldi, a pulmonologist in the ICU at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the medical director of the biocontainment unit, talks to Stephanie Desmon about his observations of COVID-19 patients including new challenges, changes to protocols, and coping with fears about he and his colleagues getting sick themselves.

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Apr 01, 2020
Health Equity in COVID-19: Breaking Down Longstanding Barriers to Save Lives

Equal access to resources, care, and information is a substantial problem for at-risk groups such as older adults, ethnic minorities, or those with low incomes even in the best of times. In this pandemic, where it’s critical to “flatten the curve” among all groups, these barriers cannot be ignored. Dr. Lisa Cooper, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity, talks to Dr. Josh Sharfstein about what needs to be done to address these significant, persistent challenges.

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Apr 01, 2020
How the Experts are Dealing with COVID-19 in Their Personal Lives

Like many, epidemiologist Keri Althoff and biostatistician Elizabeth Stuart are juggling different responsibilities and precautionary measures in the “new normal” of COVID-19. They talk to Stephanie Desmon not about their day jobs, but about play dates, community building while social distancing, ordering takeout, and how they’re managing COVID-19 as parents, neighbors, and friends.

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Mar 31, 2020
How Can We Rapidly Increase Medical Capacity in Response to the Novel Coronavirus?

What does it take to stand up a makeshift hospital—and enough people to staff it—in order to address critically ill patients of COVID-19? Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, Director of Prevent Epidemics team at Resolve to Save Lives talks to Dr. Josh Sharfstein about how to quickly scale up medical responses in a crisis.

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Mar 30, 2020
A Doctor’s Perspective from Wuhan

Dr. Bin Cao, vice president and director of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, has worked on the front lines of patient care in Wuhan for the past few months. By closely monitoring the disease, he and his team are beginning to unlock some of its secrets. Cao talks to Dr. Josh Sharfstein about how the situation has changed in Wuhan, what we can learn about safeguarding providers, the primary risk factors for death, and ongoing research.

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Mar 27, 2020
Crystal Watson, an Expert in Health Care Preparedness, Answers Your COVID-19 Questions

What do we know this week that we didn’t know last week? What’s the status of serologic testing and can it be useful in helping to end social distancing practices? How good is the current evidence on chloroquine? Should COVID-19 patients avoid taking ibuprofen? What happens next if we are successful with social distancing? If you are older but have no chronic illness, are you still at high risk?

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Mar 27, 2020
COVID-19 and the 1918 Flu Pandemic—What Can We Learn?

COVID-19 is often compared to the 1918 flu pandemic that claimed millions of lives and caused massive social disruption. But to what extent is the novel coronavirus different and what lessons can we learn from the successes and failures of previous epidemics? Medical historians Jeremy Greene and Graham Mooney talk to Stephanie Desmon about this comparison, the history of quarantines, and what we will learn from what we are living through right now.

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Mar 27, 2020
The Difficult But Important Job of a Forensic Pathologist in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dr. Judy Melinek is a forensic pathologist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She explains the role of autopsies in the public health response to COVID-19 and how her work also plays a difficult but vital role in disposing of remains when health care systems become overloaded.

Warning: This episode contains some graphic descriptions of autopsy procedures and bereavement that some listeners may find upsetting.

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Mar 26, 2020
Mental Health Support for COVID-19 Health Care Workers

In the midst of a pandemic, resilience is key for health care workers. Dr. Albert Wu, co-director of RISE—Resilience In Stressful Events—an emotional peer support structure at Johns Hopkins Hospital, talks to Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the importance of supporting hospital staff and what can be done to mitigate anxiety and stress in this unprecedented situation.

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Mar 25, 2020
The Social Side of COVID-19: How Individual Behavioral Change Benefits the Greater Community

The threat of COVID-19 presents a new challenge for citizens of many countries who are not used to government entities directing their behavior. It’s also an ideological shift for many: Change your individual behavior for the good of the greater community.

Monica Malta, an alumna of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School, is a social epidemiologist and a global health researcher at the University of Toronto. She examines how responses at local, national, and regional levels—along with individual and community behavioral changes—can change the pace of an outbreak. Malta talks to Stephanie Desmon of the Center for Communication Programs about effective response strategies, why the outbreak looked so different in Italy and Japan despite both countries having aging populations, and what the US and Canada can do to prepare for an uptick in cases.

Mar 25, 2020
COVID-19 Communication: How Facts Fight Fear

There are so many unknowns around COVID-19, so how can we find credible sources of information? What is the role of communication in the pandemic and how can authorities get it right? Susan Krenn, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, talks to Stephanie Desmon about how communication can combat fear if it’s credible, transparent, timely, and gives people the resources they need.

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Mar 24, 2020
Mental Health in the COVID-19 Pandemic: How to Cope in a Crisis

For many, COVID-19 has revealed an anxiety-ridden world of unknowns. Protecting our mental health is just as important as protecting our physical health in this pandemic. But how can we find comfort if we’re inundated with scary messages and physically cut off from people we love? Dr. Monica Schoch-Spana of the Center for Health Security talks to Dr. Josh Sharfstein about caring for ourselves and for vulnerable populations like frontline healthcare providers, friends and neighbors in quarantine, and those with underlying health conditions like anxiety or depression.

Mar 23, 2020
Jennifer Nuzzo Answers Your COVID-19 Questions, Round 2

Why is the response to COVID-19 so much more severe than the response to other outbreaks like H1N1 or SARS? Will a vaccine be more effective than the usual flu vaccine? Has the shortage of available testing been resolved? Are we seeing more cases because of increases in transmission or testing? Why does COVID-19 cause shortness of breath? Can drinking cold water increase your risk of infection?

Jennifer Nuzzo of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security addresses some myths and questions submitted to

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Mar 20, 2020
COVID-19 and the Economy: What Can We Expect?

Recent volatility in the financial markets have shaken investors and left everyone asking: Are we currently in a financial crisis? Author and expert on financial crises Kathleen Day of the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School talks to Stephanie Desmon of the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs about how the novel coronavirus is affecting local and global economies, and what consumers should do right now.

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Mar 19, 2020
Considering Human Rights in Restriction Response Strategies to COVID-19

What are the human rights considerations in the response to COVID-19? How can societies move to control the spread of the virus in ways that do not create panic or unnecessarily restrict communities? What are critical considerations as governments try to strike the right balance between restrictions and depriving people of the ability to live their lives? Dr. Josh Sharfstein talks to Len Rubenstein, Conflict and Health program director of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights.

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Mar 18, 2020
What Does #FlattenTheCurve Mean?

What is #FlattenTheCurve? Caitlin Rivers, senior scholar at the Center for Health Security talks to Dr. Josh Sharfstein about this response strategy, what it means for you, and how staying home can help ensure that everyone who needs healthcare in an outbreak will be able to get it.

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Mar 17, 2020
Can Antibodies be Used to Treat or Prevent COVID-19?

Is there potential for using antibodies generated by people who have recovered from COVID-19 to prevent infection and treat those who are sick? Dr. Josh Sharfstein talks to Arturo Casadevall, chair of Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, about a landmark 1934 case where antibodies helped stopped a measles outbreak.

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Mar 17, 2020
Ethical Dilemmas Posed by COVID-19

Is it right to publicly disclose information about people who get sick with COVID-19? What are society’s obligations to people who are quarantined? Is it time to start thinking about how to allocate critical healthcare resources in case this epidemic stretches the healthcare system beyond its capacity to care for everyone? Dr. Josh Sharfstein speaks with renowned ethicists Jeffery Kahn and Nancy Kass, the director and deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.

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Mar 16, 2020
How Nursing Homes and First Responders Can Address the Threat of COVID-19

Dr. Lucy Wilson, professor of Emergency Health Services at University of Maryland Baltimore County, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about why the Seattle outbreak is an important bellwether for the rest of the country in terms of protecting vulnerable populations, and what facilities and first responders can do to control and stop outbreaks like COVID-19.

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Mar 13, 2020
Tom Inglesby Answers your COVID-19 Questions

Can people without symptoms spread COVID-19? Can children get COVID-19? Should you cancel an upcoming gathering? Are school closures helpful? If you’ve had COVID-19, are you immune? Are men more affected than women? Dr. Tom Inglesby from the Center for Health Security answers these and some of the most asked questions sent to

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Mar 13, 2020
How Public Health Can Serve the Communities and Populations at the Greatest Risk for Being Left Behind

Weak points in the U.S.’s health and social policies—like paid sick leave and universal health coverage—disproportionately affect underserved communities. COVID-19 may present added challenges for these populations. Dr. Josh Sharfstein talks to Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, about public health’s role in preventing communities from being left behind.

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Mar 12, 2020
From Global to Local: How Local Health Departments Are Managing COVID-19

What role do local health departments play in outbreaks and how are they preparing for COVID-19? As Commissioner of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio, Terry Allan is responsible for the well-being of over 850,000 people. Allan talks to Dr. Josh Sharfstein about public trust and the importance of open information sharing, and how ongoing relationship building and past experience help set the stage for protecting people in their communities.

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Mar 11, 2020
A Systems Approach to COVID-19 Preparedness

Why the director of Hopkins’ Office of Critical Event Preparedness is preparing but not panicking: Dr. Gabor Kelen, Director of the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) talks to Dr. Josh Sharfstein about what’s contributing to public fears about COVID-19, how the institution assesses what actions to take, and his one piece of advice for people experiencing mild symptoms.

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Mar 10, 2020
How are Hospitals Preparing for COVID-19?

COVID-19 presents new challenges for health care providers in the midst of respiratory virus season. Dr. Lisa Maragakis, Senior Director of Infection Prevention at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, talks to Dr. Josh Sharfstein about standard precautions, protecting hospital staff while ensuring coverage, how previous outbreaks have laid some groundwork to address this one, and what you can do to help.

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Mar 09, 2020
Your COVID-19 Questions Answered

Is hand sanitizer effective? Will this spread throughout the US? Should I cancel my upcoming travel plans? Can COVID-19 tests tell the difference between someone who has had the virus and someone who currently has it? Are face masks effective?

Jennifer Nuzzo of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security answers these and some of the most asked questions submitted to

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Mar 06, 2020
Unlocking the Secrets of COVID-19

An interview with Professor Andrew Pekosz of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, an expert in the basic science of respiratory viruses, including influenza and SARS. Dr. Pekosz shares what’s known and what is yet to be discovered about the novel coronavirus.

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Mar 05, 2020
Understanding the Spread of COVID-19

Dr. Josh Sharfstein interviews infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Justin Lessler on the features of viruses that lead to worldwide contagion, how COVID-19 compares with the flu in terms of speed, and where the evidence now points for this novel coronavirus.

Dr. Justin Lessler is an Associate Professor in Epidemiology. Dr. Josh Sharfstein is the Vice Dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and former secretary of Maryland’s Department of Health.

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Mar 04, 2020
Global Preparedness, Misinformation and Community Transmission

With COVID-19 beginning to spread via community transmission in the U.S. and the WHO raising its risk assessment to “very high,” experts from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine offer insights on the growing global public health concern.

Featuring Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo and Dr. Tara Kirk Sell of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Lauren Sauer of the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response; moderated by Dr. Josh Sharfstein, Vice Dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and former secretary of Maryland's Department of Health.

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Mar 03, 2020