Thoughts from the President During a Pandemic

July 2, 2020 - COVID-19 Cases Rise Again

Dear Danforth Center Community,

Have you ever been preparing the weekly message and found yourself reading a 1999 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report? I have. In pondering the current state of the U.S. as SARS-CoV-2 spreads and the resultant COVID-19 cases rise again, I came across a series of articles on “Ten Great Public Health Achievements in the United States: 1900-1999.” While most of us spent the end of the 20th century preoccupied with the Y2K glitch, worrying if our smart refrigerators were going to lock us out, the good people at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were assessing the phenomenal success of public health initiatives over the prior 100 years. Did you know that life expectancy in the U.S. increased by over 30 years during the 20th century? Twenty-five of those years were attributable to advances in public health.

Control of infectious diseases and development of vaccines were documented as two of the most important and cost-effective advances contributing to both better health and much longer life expectancy over the last century. Eradication of Smallpox virus in 1977 through systematic vaccination occurred with leadership, strong national will and significant public investment; by 1985, the cost of this entire national investment was being recouped every 26 days. Leadership, national will and public investment similarly led to elimination of all circulating paralytic poliovirus in the U.S., and reduced the annual cases of Measles from over 500,000 per year to less than 100. In addition to reduction of incalculable human suffering, these two programs returned between $6.00 and $13.50 for every dollar invested per year.

Which brings us to early July, 2020 and our current battle with COVID-19. Heading into Phase 1 operations at the beginning of June, I expressed cautious optimism that we would continue in the right direction of lowering the rate of spread. But alarmingly, COVID-19 cases have doubled since mid-June at both the U.S. and Missouri levels, due in large part to increased community spread. Data indicate that rising COVID-19 cases are correlated with lack of adherence to the basic measures we all should be taking. The rigorous spacing, sanitation and hygiene, mask-wearing, and certification of wellness done by those onsite during Phase 1 at the Danforth Center, and for which I am so impressed and appreciative, are behaviors not mirrored by much of the public, and we are witnessing the consequences.

Danforth Center community members who have suffered from COVID-19, or who have family or friends who have suffered or died, can tell you in painful detail what this pandemic is all about. Over 2.7 million known cases and 127,000 known deaths in this country alone over a four-month period are astounding, and I’m distressed that we are not seeing enough leadership, national will, investment and individual responsibility in public necessary to deal adequately with the crisis.

The lessons learned by prior generations fighting terrible diseases – from pandemic flu to HIV/AIDS - must not be forgotten, because we need to apply them today! As we go into this long holiday weekend, one in which we traditionally gather in large groups around fun activities and celebrations, I ask that we all go out of our way to model the behaviors we know are necessary at this time. Stay safe!

Jim Carrington, President

Previous Weekly Messages from Jim Carrington

Danforth Center Response Plan

The Danforth Plant Science Center recognizes the potential of exposure to Coronavirus (COVID-19) in our building and the impact it could have on our people and the Center. Accordingly, we have a plan in place in the event of a positive test for COVID-19 of an individual who was present in our Building(s).

Danforth Center Updates

During this unique moment in history, the first priority of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is the health and safety of our Center community, our families, and those who work with us.