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EPIDEMIC is a weekly podcast on the science, public health, and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Hear from some of the world’s leading infectious disease, public health, and other experts. We’ll help you understand the latest science, the bigger context, and bring you diverse angles—from history to politics to virology—depth and texture you won’t get elsewhere. Hosted by Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist who worked on tuberculosis and HIV in su ...
 
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In 2020, during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Zoel Zohnnie was feeling restless. Growing up on the Navajo Nation, he said, the importance of caring for family and community was instilled at an early age. So Zohnnie wanted to find a way to help members of his tribe. One need in particular stood out: water. American Indian and Alaska Na…
 
Editor’s Note: This episode includes descriptions of violence that some might find disturbing. Intimate partner violence, also known as domestic violence, can take the form of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence, help is available. StrongHearts Native Helpline provides cultu…
 
People living on and near the Navajo Nation have been grappling with the legacy of 40-plus years of uranium mining. According to EPA cleanup reports and congressional hearings, mines were abandoned, radioactive waste was left out in the open, and groundwater was contaminated. This episode is the second half of a two-part series about uranium mining…
 
On the morning of July 16, 1979, a dam broke at a uranium mine near Church Rock, New Mexico, releasing 1,100 tons of radioactive waste and pouring 94 million gallons of contaminated water into the Rio Puerco. Toxic substances flowed downstream for nearly 100 miles, according to a report to a congressional committee that year. In the 1970s, uranium …
 
Reagan Wytsalucy was looking for a lost orchard. Martin Reinhardt wanted to know more about and better understand the taste of Indigenous foods before European colonization in North America. They followed different paths, but their goals were similar: to reclaim their food traditions to improve the health and vitality of their communities. Native f…
 
Travel to the forests outside the Grand Canyon to follow Dr. Sophina Calderon and other Navajo Nation leaders as covid-19 tests the Diné people. Roughly 30% of the homes on the Navajo Nation rely on wood-burning stoves for heat. Many of those households haul wood from nearby forests. That’s what Calderon was doing when she realized the pandemic’s r…
 
In the years leading up to the pandemic, Dr. Celine Gounder, the host of the EPIDEMIC and American Diagnosis podcasts, had the opportunity to care for patients part-time at several Indian Health Service facilities around the United States. Working on the “rez,” one theme came up over and over: resilience. In this latest season of American Diagnosis…
 
In the years leading up to the pandemic, Dr. Celine Gounder, the host of the American Diagnosis and EPIDEMIC podcasts, had the opportunity to care for patients part-time at several Indian Health Service facilities around the United States. Working on the “rez,” one theme came up over and over: resilience. In this latest season of American Diagnosis…
 
"It's a really interesting question: how do we get closure in this pandemic? I think a lot of people have hurt and loss that's not been acknowledged. I think acknowledging that loss is very important." - Andy Slavitt In this final episode of season 1 of EPIDEMIC, we look back on the coronavirus pandemic and how we can move forward with one of our f…
 
"Pregnant women who have SARS-CoV-2 are more likely to be admitted to the ICU, to need a ventilator and are more likely to die than women of the same age who are not pregnant. Pregnancy definitely makes getting COVID-19 much more dangerous." -Andrea Edlow Some of the most persistent myths about coronavirus and the vaccines developed to fight it hav…
 
"The pandemic has given us an opportunity to finally change this and if we don't, the economic impact from the fallout of women in the workforce is going to be devastating." -Erika Moritsugu The pandemic has upended caregiving and what it means to be a working mom. More than 2 million women have left the workforce because of the cost and effort of …
 
"When you're building a system like a vaccine passport you're potentially excluding millions of people because they don't have this thing that once was optional, but has now become indispensable." -Albert Fox Cahn How do you let people who are fully vaccinated get back to normal life without creating super-spreader events for those who haven’t yet …
 
"You can't fight scarcity with scarcity. The only way out of the vaccine problem is by making a lot more of it." -James Krellenstein India is the world's largest supplier of vaccines but the government there suspended the export of all COVID-19 vaccines after a devastating outbreak this spring. This is just the latest reason why global health leade…
 
"It's a triumph of science and engineering that we now have multiple effective COVID vaccines. We just need to find the political will to invest a bit more money and deploy them around the world." -Chris Morten President Joe Biden said the United States would be the world's "arsenal of vaccines" but critics say current plans to donate 80 million do…
 
"They benefit from traffic no matter if it's good information or malignant misinformation. " -Imran Ahmed During the pandemic, disinformation campaigns have been targeting people of color with lies like African Americans can't get COVID or denying the pandemic is even real. In this episode, we’re going to hear more about how these disinformation ne…
 
"What we really need to be doing is not belittle people. Don't wag your finger at them. Don't make them feel stupid or small for not having gotten the vaccine yet. Talk to them about why it's safe." - Gov. Chris Christie Conservatives have emerged as the group least likely to say they’ll get vaccinated. Getting more conservative Americans comfortab…
 
"Disinformation is a deliberate falsehood put out to mislead an audience. But what we see more of are true bits of information where necessary context has been removed or manipulated in a way that makes it technically true but wildly misleading." -Bret Schafer In this episode of EPIDEMIC, we’re going to look at disinformation during the pandemic. S…
 
"I don't think that herd immunity is a possibility for SARS CoV-2. I think there's going to be a different kind of equilibrium that we reach in the future where humans and SARS-CoV-2 co-exist in a much milder, more benign way." -Jennie Lavine The end of the pandemic might not mean the end of SARS-CoV-2. In fact, many scientists think COVID is here …
 
"The messaging that we've done in West Virginia is, look, we are leading the country, and that has really given people a sense that we can dispel a lot of negative stereotypes. We can be a world leader in a positive way." -Chris Martin Rural America's vaccine rollout has bucked expectations. A recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found t…
 
"This virus does not discriminate. The vaccine is what is going to help to get us out of this crisis and stop the depth and the harm and the pain, which is what we're suffering two to three times more than our white counterparts." -Sandra Lindsay Reports show that Black Americans are less likely to get vaccinated than the general population but Bla…
 
"We have to have a conversation where we take people's fears seriously and try to figure out what is going on there." -Vanessa Gamble Black Americans are twice as likely to die from COVID as white Americans. Despite this, polls show that African-Americans are less interested in receiving the vaccine than other groups. But for people of color who do…
 
"I think a lot of people don't understand how fearful Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans are in this moment" -Toby Chow On March 16, a gunman in Atlanta killed eight people. Six of them were women of Asian descent. During the last 12 months, anti-Asian hate crimes were up 150% in the United States but the coronavirus pandemic is not the fi…
 
"This is an invisible war and if we don't use our weapons we are not going to win it." -Ester Sabino In the fall of 2020, the Brazilian city of Manaus had the highest SARS CoV-2 infection rate in the world — possibly as high as 75 percent. Some speculated that with rates of infection this high, there would not be enough people left for the virus to…
 
"We easily have never had as high a level of vaccination acceptance as we have now but we've asked a lot more of the public. The resistance that we see today is a response, in part, to that compounded request over time." - Elena Conis The vast majority of Americans accept vaccines but concerns about the effect vaccines could theoretically have on k…
 
"Every generation has generated its own anti-vaccinationism based on very similar concerns." -Jonathan Berman Vaccines are a safe and critical public health tool. They prevent crippling childhood diseases like polio. They’re responsible for the eradication of one of the deadliest diseases ever — smallpox — and, today, they’re one of the most import…
 
"When we think about a virus we don't think as much about the immune response to the virus but it is just so, so critical." -David Fajgenbaum Where do treatments come from when there's a new disease like COVID-19? The vast majority of drugs prescribed to treat COVID during the pandemic are actually old drugs. Some of the most effective have been ar…
 
"It just shows how difficult it is to be reactive with this virus. By the time you've detected something and understood the significance of it you're already several steps behind the virus." -Richard Lessells This is the second in our series on variants of concern. Our previous episode looked at the UK variant, and today we’re looking at the varian…
 
"I had been assuming that my life and everyone else's life would get closer to normal in March. This [variant] has me worried that it won't be March, that we'll have a spring wave and I don't know how big that will be." -Trevor Bedford This winter a new, more contagious variant of SARS-CoV-2 arose in the United Kingdom: B.1.1.7. The CDC estimates t…
 
"Science is harmed when scientists don't take into account the bias that comes along with inherently being a human." -Kafui Dzirasa As a result of centuries of discrimination, and lack of access to education and opportunity, African Americans comprise only 5% of active physicians in the United States today. Former-Surgeon General David Satcher, who…
 
"When we interact with nature there are unpredictable and weird mechanisms by which pathogens might be able to move between the species." -Tony Goldberg There’s a lot we don’t know about the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus but there is a consensus that it came from animals. This is called zoonosis. HIV, Zika, and Ebola were all viruses in animals be…
 
"This is not like a lot of the other disasters that people have studied. It looks a lot more like what you'd expect to see in people who have lived through a war. " -Roy Perlis This is the second in our two-part series about deaths of despair during the pandemic. We speak with experts and review the latest data on how the pandemic is affecting rate…
 
"When the pandemic hit, many of our recovery groups went online but that's really not the same. All that great work we had been building momentum towards came to a screeching halt." -Will Cooke Overdoses have spiked during the pandemic. One of the reasons is a breakdown in the community support so critical to keeping people off drugs. Social distan…
 
"It's my responsibility as an owner to figure out how to afford to pay everyone an ethical, fair, livable wage but we have to start from the premise of paying them an ethical, livable wage" -Pete Ternes We’re revisiting restaurants as part of our series on industries disrupted by the pandemic. In this episode we speak with restaurateurs and a labor…
 
"Nobody really wants to leave their community and I don't blame them because it's our culture and we shouldn't have to move just to have clean air to breathe. That should be God-given right to drink clean water, to breathe clean air.” -Hilton Kelley During the modern environmental movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s, landmark legislation was p…
 
Transcript "That's the challenge with infodemics: too much information and not knowing who to trust." - Claire Wardle Combating misinformation has become more important than ever during the pandemic. The novel coronavirus, social media, and a polarized political environment created something public health experts have dubbed an "infodemic" — a floo…
 
Transcript "Masks are absolutely essential because you can't always control when someone gets too close to you. You can't control the ventilation in every room that you go into. The thing you control the most, that you have one hundred percent control over, is that mask." - Kimberly Prather As the death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 300,000 in the U…
 
Transcript "If you're going to be traveling, if you're going to be in a situation where you might be exposed to others or where you can protect others by quarantining yourself, right now is the time to do it and to do it carefully because this is when it can be especially effective" -Jeffrey Townsend Quarantines are an effective way to stop the spr…
 
"As we enter into a time of climate change, one of the things we're realizing is these communities that have been systematically oppressed are now the spaces people with money want to be in because all around us is sinking" - Nicole Crooks In this bonus episode of AMERICAN DIAGNOSIS, we’re going to look at how climate change is impacting the health…
 
Transcript "This, quite frankly, is our generation's Manhattan project" -Sree Chaguturu This has been a big week for vaccines. There are two vaccines under review by the FDA and the United Kingdom has become the first country to authorize Pfizer's mRNA vaccine. In this episode, we'll talk about the science behind mRNA vaccines, and discuss the phys…
 
"This can't continue to go on and if I have to be the one to take up the mantle, then I'll do that because that's what my daughter would have done." -Wanda Irving The United States is the richest country in the world with some of the most advanced medical treatments available anywhere. But you’d never know it if you knew how many mothers die in — a…
 
Transcript "I was watching the nurses and the doctors and everyone in the healthcare industry just going through this trauma... It was just like people needed help and I had a chance to help." -Jon Gunnell Thanksgiving is right around the corner but new daily cases of coronavirus are worse than ever. In this episode, we'll hear some tips for how to…
 
Transcript "Food is not going to solve the world's problems because food is itself a part of the problem, but food is an opportunity to begin thinking about it." - Tunde Wey When airlines and other big industries were getting federal aid at the start of the pandemic, chef and artist Tunde Wey argued that the restaurant industry — his own industry —…
 
"We used to be a nation where people were one bad gene or one bad traffic accident away from bankruptcy. That's not true anymore." -Jonathan Gruber It's been 10 years since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Some of its most popular provisions included protections for people with pre-existing conditions, allowing childr…
 
Transcript "There's this toxic cocktail of low endowment per student, high tuition, low experience, low certification... Those universities could be out of business in a year." - Scott Galloway Coronavirus concerns forced many universities to close their campuses this fall. The mix of fewer students on campus, canceled athletics, and online courses…
 
Transcript "We have this long history of seeking personal and individual solutions to public problems and I think the zombie films highlight that." - Robert Wonser From Night of the Living Dead, to 28 Days Later, and World War Z, pandemics have always been at the heart of zombie movies. In this Halloween edition of Epidemic, we find out what these …
 
Transcript "I would put this in very plain English: The way to protect the vulnerable is to have fewer infections, not more infections." - Dr. Tom Frieden Talk of achieving herd immunity without a vaccine is back in the news, despite the consensus among public health experts that this approach would cost hundreds of thousands of American lives. For…
 
Transcript “What could be more political [than] the determination of whether the president can fulfill the powers and duties of his office.” —Prof. George Annas Earlier this month, President Trump announced that he was COVID-positive and was hospitalized for treatment. Since then, a flurry of questions has been raised about his health, and his abil…
 
Transcript "Healthcare is political. There's a difference between politics and partisanship. Thinking about healthcare as not being political I think is where many doctors and unfortunately our healthcare system stand to lose the most." —Dr. Alister Martin COVID has made voting a public health issue this year. In this episode, we'll hear how nursin…
 
Transcript “It's not like the straight trajectory towards recovery… It very feels very much like a one step forward, two steps back. People referred to it as the Corona coaster, because you don't know where it's going to take you next” —Diana Berrent COVID “long-haulers” are people who have extended experiences with COVID symptoms that never let up…
 
Transcript “Public health is one of the few agencies locally that you can guarantee is apolitical. They just care about protecting the health of the community. … But these measures and these tactics by health officers are seen as political and an attempt to limit people's rights.” —Lori Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City He…
 
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