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Protecting Public Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic: PHI Response & Resources

The Public Health Institute and its programs are continuing to review and share emerging science, best-practices and policy shifts that may affect how our communities, healthcare and public health systems, insurers and providers respond to and manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

image: COVID-19 virus

Because of the speed with which new information, policies and recommendations related to COVID-19 are being updated, we are linking directly to many of our program source materials, and including time stamps. Check back often for updates.


COVID-19: Contact tracing & support

PHI has launched Tracing Health, its new COVID-19 contact tracing initiative, with work already started with its partners in Clark County, Washington and Washington County, Oregon to help residents stay healthy, access resources and move the counties through all four phases of reopening. Learn more.

“Our experience with PHI has exceeded our expectations,” said Alan Melnick, Public Health Director and Clark County Health Officer. “PHI immediately provided assistance, and as a result, we were able to control the (Firestone) outbreak and keep it from spreading further into our community. PHI staff and leadership quickly integrated their work with our Incident Management Team. PHI provides services in multiple languages, they respect diversity and understand how the social determinants of health affect morbidity and mortality from COVID-19.”

COVID-19 Employment opportunities

PHI is hiring numerous positions related to COVID-19 response, including contact tracing work. Visit our employment page to see current open opportunities.

Upcoming web forums on COVID-19

  • Web Forum: Advancing Health Equity During and Beyond COVID-19: Addressing Housing and Homelessness (Upcoming: 7/10/2020): Tune in to a Web Forum from PHI’s Dialogue4Health, which will highlight the disproportionate and long-existing economic and health disparities among people who are housing insecure or experience homelessness. Presenters will also highlight what is currently being done to protect this population during the COVID-19 pandemic, and identify the long-term policy, system, and environmental changes that are needed to advance health equity by effectively addressing housing insecurity and homelessness.

PHI resources on COVID-19 response

  • Statement: Standing in Support of our Public Health Officials (6/22/2020): Local health officials in charge of COVID-19 policy are receiving death threats. “Instead of bulletproof vests and security details, our local public health officials deserve the protection and support of those who appointed them, and of those they serve. What we need now—from state leadership, from local and state elected officials, from healthcare and from the public—is a clarion call of solidarity, cooperation and concrete support of public health policy,” write Jonathan E Fielding, MD, Mary A. Pittman, DrPH and Tracy Delaney PhD. Read their full statement and take action.
  • Web Forum Recording: Telehealth Policy and Reimbursement Issues in the Era of COVID-19: Perspectives from the US, Scandinavia & France (6/23/2020): Catch the recording of this Dialogue4Health Web Forum, which discusses telemedicine policy regulations and patient/provider reimbursement, featuring case studies from the US, Denmark and France. Presenters include Mei Wa Kwong, director of PHI’s Center for Connected Health Policy.
  • Tool: Tracking COVID-19 Related Telehealth State Actions (6/16/2020): As a result of COVID-19, many states have taken action to temporarily remove policy barriers to telehealth utilization. A new tracking tool from PHI’s Center for Connected Health Policy compiles actions taken by each state’s Office of the Governor, Medicaid Program, Medical Board and/or Department of Insurance, and their current status.
  • Podcast: Mitigating COVID-19 & Supporting CDC Zambia with Robyn Bernstein, MPH (6/11/2020): PHI/CDC Surveillance Fellow, Robyn Bernstein, MPH, discusses her experience with CDC Zambia’s Division of Global HIV & Tuberculosis. Robyn also elaborates on her time as Strategic Information Coordinator for the COVID-19 International Task Force- Strategic Information Unit Mitigation Team, part of CDC’s Emergency Operations Center.
  • Community Development & Health: COVID-19 Response and Resources (6/10/20): PHI’s Build Healthy Places Network curated and reviewed resources from the community development and health sectors, and categorized the best of what they found into several themes, with an emphasis on cross-sector collaboration. These themes reflect the Principles for Building Healthy and Prosperous Communities, which focus on achieving an equitable future where good health and fair opportunity are outcomes for all.
  • COVID-19 Equity Snapshots (5/29/2020): Created by PHI’s Public Health Alliance of Southern California, the COVID-19 Equity Snapshot series is designed to help communities address critical equity concerns emerging as a result of the pandemic in real-time. Topics include: Advancing a Welcoming & Inclusive Framework in Response to COVID-19; Advancing Health Justice Strategies to Combat COVID-19; Steps to Advance Racial Equity in Response to COVID-19; Food Security as Equity; Advancing Health Equity for Individuals and Families Experiencing Homelessness; and Using Data to Advance Equity.
  • Podcast: Mapping COVID-19 & Building Global Health Capacity with Greg Chang, MPH (5/28/2020): PHI/CDC Surveillance Fellow, Greg Chang, MPH, discusses his experience serving on CDC’s International Epidemiology Team responding to COVID-19 and his work on Population-based HIV Impact Assessments with the Division of Global HIV & Tuberculosis for CDC’s Center for Global Health.
  • Resources for SNAP-Ed Implementing Agencies During COVID-19 (5/28/2020): To help SNAP-Ed agencies address the COVID-19 pandemic, PHI’s Center for Wellness and Nutrition provides guidance on ways to continue to support the public and their programs, while prioritizing the safety and health of staff, partners, clients, and community members.
  • Web Forum Recording: COVID-19 and the Impact on Communities of Color: Our Nation’s Inequities Exposed (5/20/2020): Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, communities of color already faced inequitable opportunities for health and well-being. This Dialogue4Health Web Forum recording highlights the disproportionate impact on communities of color, and the short- and long-term efforts needed to address this impact. There is also a focus on the recent federal legislation and state actions in response to COVID-19.
  • Telehealth Policy in a Post-COVID-19 World (5/19/2020): COVID-19 has significantly impacted all aspects of our lives, including access to medical care. Mei Kwong, director of PHI’s Center for Connected Health Policy, shares an assessment of which temporary telehealth policy changes are likely to remain in place, and identifies key issues moving forward including reimbursement policies, internet access, HIPAA/privacy concerns and more.

"Decades of widening economic inequality, disinvestment in public health, and systemic racism have led to precarious standards of living for millions of Californians, and COVID-19 has pulled back the curtain to expose these fault lines in our society. During every crisis, from natural disasters and eruptions of disease to those caused directly by corporate and political decisions, we’ve seen that low-income people of color are both most acutely impacted and face the longest recovery. For this reason, we know that as we plan for recovery, we cannot simply hope to 'go back to normal.'"
—ENACT Day 2020 Policy Statement

  • Beyond COVID-19 Recovery: Restructuring for a Healthy and Equitable California (5/15/2020): A policy statement from PHI’s CA4Health and other ENACT Day partners identifies four key policy areas for an equitable, inclusive, and community-led response and recovery to the COVID-19 crisis: Healthy food access; healthy and accessible communities; justice for immigrant communities; and preventing violence and trauma.
  • PHI Statement on California May Budget Revise (5/14/2020): “Like economies and governments around the globe, the state of California faces hard choices when it comes to protecting the health of its residents in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that has devastated lives, health and the economy,” writes Matthew Marsom, PHI VP of Public Policy and Programs. “One thing is clear: we need more, not less, investment in public health to steer us to the other side of this crisis and avoid dire impacts, particularly within communities of color and low-income Californians.”
  • New Tool: Interactive Map Pinpoints Urgent Needs of Vulnerable Populations Through the COVID CrisisHPI COVID Map screenshot (5/12/2020): PHI’s Public Health Alliance of Southern California has released the COVID-19 Healthy Places Index Resource Map, a powerful interactive online tool that exposes how the COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating existing health disparities based on race, poverty, and other socioeconomic and environmental factors.
  • Podcast: COVID-19 & the Cruise Ship Task Force with Riley Wagner, MPH (5/6/2020): Tune in to a the first podcast from the PHI/CDC Global Health Program, which features Riley Wagner, MPH  as she discusses her experience on CDC’s Emergency Operations Center and elaborates on her work with the Cruise Ship Task Force.

"The task of building personal and community resilience requires serious focus. At the community level this will mean huge investments in infrastructure, disaster preparedness, disease prevention and crisis response."
— Michael Dimock, Roots of Change

“Solidarity is key in supporting our vulnerable communities—this means coming together out of love for each other and really listening to what our community needs as well as working together to create a safer, healthier, and caring community.”
—Edith Romero, United States (Louisiana), PHI Rise Up Leader

  • Rise Up Leaders on the Frontlines of COVID-19 (5/4/2020): PHI’s Rise Up activates women and girls to transform their lives, families and communities for a more just and equitable world. In the first of a new series, Rise Up Leaders from across the globe discuss the effects of COVID-19 on their communities and their work to advance gender equity.
  • screenshot: video Providing Services via Telephone during COVID-19Video Series on Telehealth & COVID-19 (Updated 5/1/2020): See new videos from PHI’s Center for Connected Health Policy addressing the latest updates about the telehealth policies and COVID-19. Topics include CMS COVID-19 Telehealth Policy Updates to Medicare; Providing Services via Telephone during COVID-19; State Telehealth Policy & COVID-19; and more.
  • Tip Sheet: Communicating about Racial Equity and COVID-19: Connecting Data to Context (5/1/2020): Without background knowledge or proper context, when people hear statistics about racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes, they are likely to attribute the cause to individual behavior. This tip sheet from PHI’s Berkeley Media Studies Group offers suggestions for incorporating the bigger picture into storytelling to help audiences understand the systemic causes of—and solutions to—inequities.
  • COVID-19: Local Health Department Needs in Southern California (4/30/2020): What do local health departments need in order to effectively address COVID-19? New findings from PHI’s Public Health Alliance of Southern California identify increased lab testing and capacity; strategies to pivot from containment to mitigation; dedicated local funding; ways to address racism and xenophobia; communications to communities; guidance on staffing; and multi-sector coordination.
  • Telehealth Coverage Policies in the Time of COVID-19 to Date (4/30/2020—3pm PT): The federal administration and major health insurers are updating telehealth technologies, legislation and reimbursement policies to make it easier for communities to monitor, test and prevent the spread of COVID-19. PHI’s Center for Connected Health Policy provides a summary of the changes to telehealth covered by Medicare, Medicaid, various public and private payers, as well as state updates. As of 4/30/2020, CCHP has also released an additional fact sheet on Federally Qualified Health Centers & Rural Health Clinics Acting as Distant Site Providers in Medicare.
  • Web Forum Recording: ADA National Network Learning Session: COVID19, Health Care, and the ADA (4/23/2020): In this webinar, ADA National Network staff reviewed general health care provisions in the ADA and how they apply to the COVID-19 pandemic such as temporary medical facilities, drive-thru testing sites, and other current health care issues.
  • Close Off Some Streets—for the Health of the Public (4/22/2020): Slow streets are regular neighborhood streets that have been closed to through traffic in order to allow residents to “safely walk, wheelchair roll and jog in traffic lanes, as well as on narrow sidewalks, providing enough space to safely socially distance,” write SPUR’s Robert Ogilvie, Public Health Advocates’ Harold Goldstein and PHI’s Mary A. Pittman. “They start to equalize the opportunity to be safely outside for disadvantaged communities that lack parks and other open space.” Read their San Francisco Chronicle op-ed.

Podcast: Public Health on the Line (4/16/2020):Which countries’ public health responseshave worked and which ones have floundered? In this episode of A Shot In the Arm Podcast, made in partnership with the Bay Area image: CEO Mary Pittman podcastGlobal Health Alliance, Mary Pittman, President and CEO of the Public Health Institute joins Michele Barry, Senior Dean for Global Health &the Director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health at Stanford University to discuss global-to-local impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Together they analyze different epidemic strategies and what the lessons the USA urgently needs to hear.

See the podcast

  • Web Forum Recording: “Protecting Older Adults from the Harms of Social Isolation and Providing a Continuum of Care During COVID-19” (4/15/2020): See the recording from a PHI Dialogue4Health Web Forum with Trust for America’s Health, exploring how to address the unique challenges that older adults face while adhering to public health advice to minimize risk of infection. Learn about the consequences of social isolation, how the aging services sector has adapted its delivery models, and hear about promising practices from the field and the importance of working with public health partners to address the needs of older adults.
  • COVID-19, Asthma, and Equity (4/13/2020—Updated): See updates from PHI’s Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP) program on COVID-19 risk for people with asthma, asthma management, and the disproportionate impact of asthma and the coronavirus on low-income communities and communities of color.
  • Make A Mask. Share A Mask. Wear A Mask. (4/10/2020): Utilizing evidence from China and elsewhere we are learning that masks may reduce the viral load if one comes in contact with an infected individual and can reduce transmission if image: face masks instructionsyou yourself are infected but asymptomatic. The recent CDC recommendation to use a mask when leaving one’s home for necessities like food seems like good public health advice. PHI encourages everyone to follow CDC recommendations to physically distance themselves by staying at home as a first step, and then to use a mask (even a bandana over your nose and mouth) when exiting your residence to access or perform essential services. Find out how to make your own.
  • Webinar Recording: Tenant Protections (4/6/2020): Tenant protections are a core part of RAMP’s work to promote stable and healthy housing, and the coronavirus outbreak has only reinforced the importance of such protections. In partnership with Health Leads’ Bay Area Healthcare for Healthy Communities Learning Initiative (BALI), PHI’s Regional Asthma Management and Prevention hosted a presentation on tenant protections providing an update on new-in-2020 and COVID-specific tenant protection laws and policies.
  • Webinar Recording: Virtual Asthma Home Visits (4/3/2020): Given the risks of the coronavirus pandemic and the wide-spread shelter in place orders, asthma home visiting programs are developing new ways to serve people with poorly controlled asthma. PHI’s Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP) program hosted a webinar to learn more about virtual asthma home visits, share resources, and try to solve challenges related to implementation. The webinar recording is now available, as are the presentation slides and a wide range of other virtual home visiting resources from Children’s National Hospital.
  • Web Forum Recording: Combating COVID-19: Why Paid Sick Leave Matters to Controlling its Spread (4/1/2020): Watch the Web Forum recording, hosted by PHI’s Dialogue4Health, which highlights screenshot of webinar recommendations made in the Ready or Not and Promoting Health and Cost Control in States reports by Trust for America’s Health, on the important role of paid sick leave in combating infectious diseases, as well as other complementary evidence-based policies that can be adopted by federal, state and local governments and by employers.
  • Talking about Housing, Health, and COVID-19: Keeping Equity at the Forefront (3/25/2020):  COVID-19 has brought to the forefront solutions that advocates have long called for—tenant protections, stopping the sweeps of people who are unhoused, and more—as advocates push for additional, urgent ways to ensure people are sheltered during this pandemic. PHI’s Berkeley Media Studies Group’s new guide is focused on shifting the narrative from safety during the pandemic to the importance of treating housing as essential to public health, now and moving forward.

"If the link between housing and health is not explicit in the news, decision-makers and the public may not prioritize addressing housing needs. At this moment, we must highlight the urgent need to ensure everyone has safe shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasize that homes are a crucial foundation for a healthy society. "
—Berkeley Media Studies Group

image: Flattening the Curve graph

  • COVID-19: Addressing Discrimination & Racism (3/17/2020): As both fear and misinformation about COVID-19 continue to grow, health departments and community members are reporting increased incidences of physical, verbal, social and economic discrimination against Asian Pacific Islander communities. A subcommittee of PHI’s Public Health Alliance of Southern California, with input from PHI’s Berkeley Media Studies Group, developed a set of rapid response guidelines to be considered for implementation by local health departments in order to help actively reject and prevent discrimination and racism, and work to promote the health and safety of all people living in our communities.
  • Telehealth Coverage, Technologies, Vital in the Fight Against COVID-19 (3/10/2020): As things rapidly develop on what we know about COVID-19, policies around telehealth have also been developing alongside of it. Mei Wa Kwong, director of PHI’s Center for Connected Health Policy, provides a critical overview of the telehealth updates from the federal administration and major health insurers, explores what they mean, and explains how existing state policies on telehealth may be interpreted in an emergency.

How we’re working: COVID-19

When public health is working best, we rarely see it working. We just see people breathing clean air, accessing affordable health care and living in affordable housing. And in this moment, in many communities around the world, public health means staying put and scaling back in order to care for each other and protect our most vulnerable community members and institutions from COVID-19.

During this emergency, the Public Health Institute will still be working, hard. We are already adjusting how we work, but we are dedicated to making sure that our efforts to build power, connection, infrastructure and health won’t stop. Here’s how.

We’ll be working remotely.

Our physical offices in Oakland, Sacramento and DC are currently closed. We have adjusted our operations to support remote work for the majority of our staff and programs. Phones and emails are being checked regularly and forwarded to relevant staff. The best way to reach us for general information is 510.285.5500. The Public Health Institute and its programs are continuing to review and share emerging science, best-practices and policy shifts that may affect how our communities, healthcare and public health systems, insurers and providers respond to and manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ll be collaborating and convening.

One of the things that PHI does best is to bring people together. Our Dialogue4Health platform has hosted hundreds of Web Forums for tens of thousands of health and public health professionals over the last decade. We’ll be leveraging that expertise to help each other, deepen our program work, and help you connect to each other and the people who need to hear about your work.

We’ll be sharing evidence and best practices.

This is the time for PHI to redouble our efforts to communicate the best information to those seeking a trusted and reliable source. We will continue to share emerging science, best-practices and policy shifts related to COVID-19. And, because COVID-19 may intensify other gaps in our public health systems and infrastructure, we will also continue to share other important public health news, research and policies. For official information on COVID-19, please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO.

We look forward to continuing to connect with you and to serve our programs and communities around the world.


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COVID-19 Resources and Updates

The Public Health Institute is working hard to focus our resources and expertise to address COVID-19 and its impacts on our communities. We are getting masks and PPE directly to frontline workers, bolstering efforts to address inequities, and coming up with solutions to support our most vulnerable communities.

See our work

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