Pandemic ebbs in Colorado, yet another tragic school shooting, and the class of 2022 graduates

Memorial Day, which occurs on the last Monday in May, is a federal holiday dedicated to mourning those who died while serving in the United States military. The total exceeds 1.3 million since the founding of the United States. For this year’s Memorial Day weekend, grief and anger over another tragic school shooting are at the center of the conversation, shifting its focus. President Biden laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Monday; but on Sunday he and his wife were in Uvalde, Texas, after an 18-year-old with an automatic weapon he had just bought killed 19 school children and two teachers. As with the Buffalo shooting just weeks ago, the president’s empathy for the victims and their families was powerful and his frustration at yet another massacre was evident. Once again, the now ritualized calls to action followed the school shooting, juxtaposed with the maddening Kabuki theater of opponents of anti-gun violence measures.

In a full-page Sunday ad New York Times, Kaiser Permanente proclaimed that “Gun violence is a public health crisis. An avoidable one. It establishes a new center for research and education on armed violence. The Colorado School of Public Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine recently created the Collaborative Center for Injury and Violence Prevention, led by Ashley Brooks-Russell and Emmy Betz, which builds on the former prevention program Injury, Education and Research (PIPER) . These centers conduct research and develop educational initiatives and policy approaches. Unfortunately, the policy blocks reasonable, evidence-based necessary actions suggested by research and has been doing so for a long time.

The scale of the public health crisis is enormous and deeply troubling. Between 1990 and 2015, there were 851,000 gun deaths in the United States. Not surprisingly, death rates are high among young men, especially black men with low levels of education. Gun deaths rose 28% in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Uvalde tragedy highlights the scope of gun violence in our schools. The hill lists 27 school shootings that have already occurred in 2022. In the public health problem-solving paradigm, a problem has been identified and its root causes characterized. Again, opinion columnists are offering next steps, as they have done in the past. Will the number of children and teachers influence the nation’s leaders?

Although moved from the front pages, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. Test positivity and the number of people hospitalized in Colorado continue to rise, and the BA.4 and BA.5 variants have reached the state. While the state of the pandemic in Colorado is no longer as threatening as it once was, the future and cumulative burden of a long COVID is concerning. A report last week in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report provides a national overview of post-COVID conditions among adult survivors of COVID-19. Investigators used a national database of electronic health records to conduct a cohort study of people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 or tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and a matched control group. Of 26 pre-specified conditions, one in five adults aged 18 to 64 have experienced at least one. The cumulative incidence was even higher in people aged 65 and over at one in four. Patients with COVID-19 were twice as likely to experience pulmonary embolism and respiratory symptoms compared to the control group. The risks of cardiovascular outcomes and general symptoms were also higher, with some differences by age group. One of the upcoming projects for the Colorado COVID-19 Modeling Group is to estimate the burden of long COVID on the state.

Although there was a lot of difficult news in the past week, we were able to find moments of hope and connection. Last week’s Convocation was a wonderful event, held outside in front of the Fitzsimons Building on a beautiful Colorado morning. Being together was nice and refreshing. Our speaker, Dr. Terri Richardson, powerfully reminded students of the issues that need attention and the entrenched health inequities that need to be eliminated. His exhortation to graduates will be remembered.

A former graduate – Jen Myers – wrote to me with her charge to new alumni:

“Public health is currently a field under attack, but at no time in modern history has our profession been more important. I entered college just as SARS was emerging, and I was both excited and terrified to be part of the public health community. I imagine many of you are feeling much the same way right now, as the COVID pandemic rages on and monkeypox is now on our collective radar.

The pandemic has laid bare racial and social inequalities that come as no surprise to many of us who work in medicine and public health, and you have now become the next generation of public health professionals. determined to right those wrongs.

Know that the Colorado School of Public Health has prepared you well for the challenges ahead and that each of you will make a difference in your communities every day.

To our graduates—congratulations. You have a lot to do. I know you will rise to the occasion.

Signature of Jon Samet

Jonathan Samet, MD, MS
Dean, Colorado School of Public Health


Colorado School of Public Health|

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ColoradoSPH COVID-19 Dean’s Notes
ColoradoSPH Dean’s Notes

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