With news of the COVID-19 pandemic constantly changing, it can be hard to keep up with the science and what it means for peoples lives.  

To make sense of all the information going around, Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning broadcaster Soledad O’Brien recently moderated a town hall on Yahoo Life called “Coronavirus: The Second Wave” that features experts in public health: Abdul El-Sayed, MD, PhD, physician, epidemiologist, and CNN commentatorOxiris Barbot, MD, former New York City health commissioner; and Brian Castrucci, DrPH, president and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation.

Read what these leaders in public health said about lessons learned, and what to expect in the coming months weathering this public health crisis. 

What We’ve Learned:

Masks Are One of the Best Tools We Have  

“Until we get a vaccination and definitive therapeutics, we need to make face coverings a part of our everyday wardrobe. That’s what’s going to keep us safe…When public health advocates for the use of face coverings, we’re not trying to restrict people’s individual liberties, we’re actually trying to advise on ways in which they can fully exercise them safely.” —Dr. Barbot  

Our Actions Have Serious Consequences 

“We are staying apart now so that when we can gather again, everyone is there. If you don’t want to wear a mask, if you don’t want to socially distance, next time you gather with your family, pick the person that you don’t want to be there anymore. That could be the person who gets COVID and has a negative outcome.” —Dr. Castrucci  

Herd Immunity Is Not the Solution  

Herd immunity can apply to certain conditions. You know, we often talk about herd immunity with measles. And last year, we had an experience here in New York City with the biggest measles outbreak. But in a situation where youve got a novel virus that no one has ever been exposed, to where you know that thousands and thousands of people are dying, advocating for herd immunity is reckless at best. —Dr. Barbot

Theres a conversation that were having about this idea of herd immunity, about the probability of getting sick or not getting sick as a function of other people who may be carrying immunity to the virus because they might have had it, and were nowhere near that right now. —Dr. El-Sayed 

Children Remain at Risk  

Whatever folks choose to do with their kids and whatever administrators choose to do with respect to their schools, it is critical that schools facilitate following social distancing guidelines, and that you work with your children about why its so important to wash their hands why its so important to stay away, why it is so important to wear a mask, and really help them to understand whats going on. Dr. El-Sayed 

Partisanship Impedes Scientific Progress 

We have to take this moment to really think about how we want to handle health going forward. I think theres an opportunity for us to ensure that we will never have a moment in our history when health is at the whims of partisanshipAnd we need to make sure that partisanship on either side is not whats dictating our health, but that well-informed science is leading the way. —Dr. Castrucci 

What to Expect:

Another Wave Is Coming 

Were guaranteed to have a resurgenceTheres going to be an increase in the number of cases. To what degree that then is going to affect cities is going to be dependent on individual behavior, but then also on systems. —Dr. Barbot  

Its plausible that the fall could be even worse than what weve already seen. And weve got to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities. —Dr. El-Sayed 

Now Is the Time to Be Vigilant 

“Every decision that we make from this point forward is going to define how we deal with COVID, what type of society and community we want, and whether this will ever happen again. And I am hopeful that as in every other time in the history of this nation, we will come together and fight this common enemy.” —Dr. Castrucci  

Weve got to recognize  however annoying it is to wear this thing on your face, however annoying it is to be constantly sanitizing your hands, however annoying it is to be skipping out on that fun party that you wish you could have gone to, however annoying it is to be worried about the circumstances in which your kids are learning  it is so much more dangerous if there were to be an outbreak of an extremely contagious, very deadly disease in your family. Dr. El-Sayed 

For more information and to watch the full town hall event, go to bit.ly/townhallwave2.

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