Hello! I am a professor and the director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University Medical Center. I teach courses on global health diplomacy, global health security, and emerging infectious diseases. Since 2007, much of my work has been on the domestic and global implementation of the International Health Regulations as well as global governance of public health emergencies, and from 2004 to 2019, I was a consultant to the Department of State, working on issues related to the Biological Weapons Convention, pandemic influenza and disease surveillance.

I had planned on hosting a screening and discussion of the film, Contagion, in Washington, DC in conjunction with Future Tense, a partnership between Arizona State University, Slate magazine, and the think tank, New America. Obviously, the evolving situation forced us to change our plans, but I’m glad to be able to broaden the discussion with you all!

AMA and please be sure to check https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html for the latest recommendations and news about COVID-19!

Proof: https://i.redd.it/pmza3if20hn41.png

Comments: 140 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

OutrageousCondition616 karma

If you were fully in charge of the U.S. response what's the first thing you'd do?

slatedotcom34 karma

started the response in early January!

Mimi10810 karma

Hello Dr. Rebecca Katz,

Thank you so much for doing this! There have been conflicting reports as to how long SARS-Cov-2 lasts in the air, and on certain objects. I read some articles saying hours in the air, and 9 days on certain objects at room temperature. Then I read other articles saying it lasts half an hour in the air, and 3 days on certain objects. I'm wondering if you perhaps have an idea on what the averages are for the air and on objects, or if this is something that is still being looked at?

Thank you so much, and have a lovely day!

slatedotcom16 karma

The latest study I have seen (by authors from NIH, CDC and Princeton) show that it lasts on surfaces up to 3 days. (less time on cardboard and copper, more time on plastics and steel)

slatedotcom10 karma

Thank you all for you questions today. I hope this has been helpful.

Stay informed. Take this seriously. And be kind to each other.

TheBoxShark9 karma

Regarding the spread of COVID 19, at what point would recommend the public stay home from work as a precaution? I'm in an area with a little over 70 confirmed cases in a city with a population of just over 1,000,000. I work closely with the general public daily and my work has no plans to close or stop business as usual. At what point should I use paid vacation time to stay home? Is this an overreaction?

slatedotcom23 karma

I would say right now.

If you are in the US, that number of 70 confirmed cases is most likely a huge underestimate, as we have not been doing sufficient testing. Federal guidance is to work from home if possible. If not possible, take all precautions you can. Social distancing (can you stay 6 feet away from people at work?) washing your hands, not touching your face


Diablooo7 karma

What do you think people with non-coronavirus issues should do about going to the doctor? Should they avoid it and wait it out or go like normal?

slatedotcom10 karma

Depends on what the issue is. If it is not a critical appointment, consider postponing. In fact, many providers are changing their hours or postponing non-critical procedures/appointments themselves.

But, clearly if it is a necessary appointment (like dialysis) you should keep it. Your provider will no doubt have new processes in place to keep people as safe as possible

Also, note that a lot of providers are moving to telemedicine, if possible

eriee6 karma

Is there any reliable information you’ve seen as to whether or not otherwise asymptomatic people have any decrease in lung capacity?

(Basically, I know the hold-your-breath-for-10-seconds thing going around was nonsense, but would otherwise healthy individuals with Covid-19 have any way to measure their own health given most don’t qualify for tests.)

Also thanks!

slatedotcom9 karma

To my knowledge, there is no way for the general population to know if they are asymptomatic or not. Which means, if you have an elderly or at risk person in your family, please be very careful and maybe just connect with them virtually

Dizzy-Wing6 karma

Someone suggested that we should quarantine all people over the age of 65 + immunocompromised and let everybody else continue as usual. With the idea to put the virus everywhere and allow it to spread and run its course over some several months to avoid loss of jobs and school and so on. then once it has spread, and eventually dies in the environment, we can allow old and immunocompromised people 2 go out and about. What do you think about this? I thought that people that go home to older family members would be putting them at risk so that's probably not a good idea.

slatedotcom13 karma

I think there are a lot of problems with that plan

First, everyone is at risk of contracting the virus and having a severe course of disease. The elderly and immunocompromised are just more at risk.

Second, Kaiser Family Foundation did a study to identify the number of elderly and at risk adults in each state. Please note that this ranges from 30-50% of the entire adult population, depending on location

There is a lot more I can write about this, but I firmly believe we have an obligation to our ENTIRE community

Velken5 karma

I remember reading about COVID-19 back in early January when it was still "pneumonia of unknown origin." Are there concrete steps the WHO or even individual countries can take to improve upon disease surveillance and international broadcasting/reporting?

slatedotcom7 karma

China reported these cases to the WHO in late December. There will no doubt be arguments for a long time re: whether they could have reported earlier. But they reported the end of December, and the WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern at the end of January.

Are there steps we can take to improve capacity for surveillance and reporting? Absolutely. Under the International Health Regulations, countries are obligated to develop core capacities to prevent, detect, report and respond to public health emergencies. Many countries, however, have not had the resources to build and sustain these core capacities. The global community knows how to provide technical guidance, but requires financial resources (and national level commitment) to put these capacities in place

tnssr5 karma

Can COVID-19 be classified as an airborne virus at this time?

slatedotcom10 karma

My understanding is that a recent study has shown that the droplets can be suspended for an increased amount of time, particularly in certain healthcare settings/result from specific medical procedures, but I do not believe it should be classified as airborne at this time

mtaylorcreative4 karma

Hi Rebecca, thanks for giving your time. Can you suggest some ways we can help our local doctors, nurses and healthcare providers? Is there anything regular citizens can do for them during this time?

slatedotcom10 karma

What a great question.

Acknowledge that they are the front line responders. They are putting their health and wellbeing at risk every day to fight this pandemic. They may be tired. They made really love a nice meal- or maybe delivery to the hospital. They may be trying to figure out how to provide childcare for their families.

But ask them directly!

zorastersab4 karma

  • Why are there such large differences between different country's tests in terms of both deployment and the rapidness with which results are found?
  • Do you know if there has been any tangible ramp up of production for both testing and treatment (i.e. ventilators)?

I understand the US turned down WHO tests, but I'm still confused why some places have "rapid" tests and others don't.

slatedotcom4 karma

I'm pretty confused to. We should be in a much better place right now re: testing.

My understanding is that testing has ramped up, but it is still difficult to get a test for everyone who wants/needs one and the results take way too long

CraftyCustard04 karma

Hellon. I am filled with anxieymty. When can TV shows and other parts of normal life resume? When do you think social distancing will end?

slatedotcom12 karma

Honestly, it may be a while. But it will be ok.

There will not be any major disruptions in the food supply. Or water. Or electricity. These sectors are doing the best they can to provide critical services.

And we will hopefully see some of the best of humanity- communities doing everything in their power to provide support to each other.

I also fully expect to see some new ideas, interventions and technologies I've never even dreamed of. One of the few good things happening right now is that many smart people from many disciplines and sectors of society are now focussed on COVID. I imagine we are going to see things our (pretty small professional community) had never even dreamed of

nmsmith1br4 karma

I've recently read that over time it is estimated that 40% to 70% of the U.S. population will be be infected with the virus. Is this a virus that is a one-and-done per individual or is it possible to contract COVID 19 multiple times?

slatedotcom13 karma

There are multiple models out there for how much of the population may become infected. These range from 10% to over 80%. These estimates, though, are directly related to how many social distancing measures are put in place and for how long

It appears that earlier reports of 're-infection' were really just people having a very long course of disease (or period of time when they are still testing positive). I think everyone is hoping that people who recover develop a natural immunity, but we are still waiting for additional scientific studies to confirm this, as well as to confirm how long such immunity might last. This will be critical information for the response

Jglloyd2203 karma

In the film, researchers find that the pathogen mutates as it spreads through the population. Is it something that scientists are concerned about with the new coronavirus as well?

slatedotcom4 karma

So far this coronavirus has been pretty stable. There was some research published around two different strains of the virus, though, and that is being more thoroughly investigated.

Unusual-Trash3 karma

how is the development of the vaccine against COVID-19? Is development being effective?

slatedotcom8 karma

Vaccine development is happening at lightening speed. There is already a candidate that started Phase 1 trials this week. Know, though, that it is a long process to get through clinical trials and we are still probably about a year to 18 months out

muserudita3 karma

Is our current administration taking and implementing your expert advice about managing this public health crisis?

slatedotcom6 karma

The current administration is drawing upon its internal USG experts, but also using the National Academies for advice.

OutrageousCondition63 karma

Do you recommend people watch Contagion if they haven't already? And beyond entertainment, what valid takeaways does it provide for us these days?

slatedotcom14 karma

It is a good movie, so recommend watching for entertainment. I also think there are some aspects of it that are very educational (love that Kate Winslet explains R0), and there are some parts that feel very relevant to today (sitting in a coffee shop and realizing all of the opportunities for virus transmission.).
But there are some parts that are very much Hollywood - like self injecting an experimental vaccine. Also, the movie was based on a virus that had a much higher case fatality rate than COVID

chessman65002 karma

Will this pandemic be as bad as Spanish flu?

slatedotcom3 karma

It has a similar transmission, and a similar case fatality rate. It is,though, a different virus, so it will act differently, and we now have the ability to develop effective medical countermeasures.

All of the social distancing measures currently being discussed are in an attempt to save lives and do what we can to ensure fewer people die

lisa_lionheart842 karma

What question are your family and friends asking you the most these days?

slatedotcom8 karma

I think the most frequent question I get is 'how long is this going to last'? There is a fair amount of uncertainty around this, but I can definitely say it will be longer than 15 days

zaboomafoo892 karma

What’s the easiest way to donate supplies to hospitals right now? What kind of supplies will hospitals take? Do masks, gloves, etc. need to be unopened to be donated?

ETA: Are there other kinds of contributions or donations we should be thinking about right now? Blood or plasma? Food?

slatedotcom6 karma

If you have supplies, I'm sure hospitals would be very thankful. I'm not sure what normal procedures are for donating supplies, but I do know that many hospitals and healthcare providers across the country do not have sufficient numbers of masks There are also call out right now for donating blood, particularly in more hard hit areas of the country, as there are severe shortages

KingKaos4202 karma

Am I really safe in my home? Will self-quarantining guarantee I don’t catch it?

slatedotcom9 karma

After a full 14 days, if you have totally quarantined yourself, and have not developed symptoms, you should be confident that you are virus free. But after those 14 days, are you re-exposing yourself?

DawnBRK2 karma

Welcome to Reddit AMA, Dr. Katz.
My question is: why aren't US hospitals releasing clearer statistics of the deaths (age group, if they had pre-existing condition or not) in order to calm some people down?I feel like so many people are freaking out in fear, when they should be able to understand that self-isolation is a matter of precaution, to avoid mass infection of those in risk-groups.

Side note: Hah, just watched "Contagion" two days ago. :)

slatedotcom5 karma

The public health and medical community is indeed sharing information. Data should be reported to CDC. CDC is releasing some of this (not all- which I, too, take issue with). And clinicians are publishing academic papers as fast as possible (and putting pre- publication papers online as preprints)

sunnigirl222 karma

What are your recommendations on ambulatory elective surgery centers? I am an RN and ours remains open for business in Calif.! This seems irresponsible! Staff is worried about exposure. How effective can our screening process be if people can remain asymptotic for up to 14 days. Patients will have no idea if they have been exposed or not until its too late! It has been clear regarding recommendations regarding elective surgeries in hospitals but very confusing regarding ASC's. Some clarification would be great, although I have already emailed our CEO to voice my concerns that we should close, not only to protect staff and their families but also to protect the patients in our community.

slatedotcom7 karma

My recommendation - and that is all this is- a recommendation- would be to stop elective surgeries. For all the reasons you have mentioned.

(although I would note that on average, people who develop symptoms most often do so between day 5 and 12)

nmsmith1br2 karma

What are your thoughts about the relatively low number of cases in Africa and what can be learned from Africa about COVID 19?

slatedotcom11 karma

Unfortunately, I fear that there are probably many unreported cases in Africa.

But what can we learn? Senegal has developed a rapid test for COVID, Nigeria is involved in aggressive contact tracing. Africa CDC is working closely with nations to help them prepare.

kinastan2 karma

Can you tell us if you have been seeing GI symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea in COVID-19 patients?

slatedotcom3 karma

GI symptoms have been documented in COVID patients, but it is not all that common.

Sh6co2 karma

Hi Dr, are there currently any projections as to when the COVID-19 situation will peak in Italy?

slatedotcom8 karma

Italy had an ~12% decrease in the number of new cases reported yesterday. They are still really struggling - particularly in the north- and their healthcare systems are overwhelmed, but it appears the social distancing measures are starting to help

SCSWitch2 karma

Is there a chance of other respiratory illnesses like the flu going to render a person vulnerable to Covid 19? Should I get the flu shot?

slatedotcom6 karma

Two months ago we were urging people to get the flu shot because flu was circulating, and also helped to keep people out of drs. offices. We are heading to the end of flu season now, though, so best to check how much flu is still circulating where you live

abh19722 karma

Hello Dr. Katz,

I was told the coronavirus would peak in mid-June. Can you confirm that based on your resarch/models? Thanks

slatedotcom5 karma

It is pretty hard to tell when the peak will be, as we are still seeing new social distancing measures implemented. My best guess, though, is that we may see a peak sometime between late May and mid July

MME_TOO2 karma

Dr Katz,

You indicated that there is a shortage of blood donations. Is there any concern that donated blood could be infected or is that not how it works with a virus? How do I know if it is safe to donate?

slatedotcom6 karma

I don't know enough to answer that question (as the daughter of a hematologist, I know what I don't know!) But I can share that the American Red Cross has tweeted this:

American Red Cross @RedCross · Mar 17 We now face a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this #coronavirus outbreak. Make an appointment to help patients counting on lifesaving blood: https://rdcrss.org/2weMYZI

sarahrossi2 karma


slatedotcom6 karma

A paper was released yesterday in Pediatrics that you might want to take a look at. Includes new data from a study of 2000+ children infected in China and had specific information about difficult courses of disease in babies and preschoolers.

TheRealVR1 karma

Hello DRK! Would tests show if one already had the COVID19 virus or does it only confirm if presently carrying?

slatedotcom6 karma

I believe the current test only shows if you currently are infected, and doesn't capture past infection.

AndrewNotDrew1 karma

As a student that's deeply interested in the interdisciplinary aspect of medicine and politics, what do you think of how various governments have reacted to COVID-19 and how do there "stack up" against each other in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, economic protection, and rates of testing/recovery? Particularly of interest are Italy, South Korea, China, and the U.S.

(Also, Georgetown is one of my dream schools!)

slatedotcom3 karma

Apply to our programs!!!

I imagine I will be supervising dissertations on these questions for years to come

gnomonologue1 karma

Could this pandemic lead to governments (Canada or the US) asking temporary residents (e.g. international students and foreign workers) to leave the county? In case of shortage of resources and other challenges.

slatedotcom4 karma

I really don't know.

invisible_man021 karma

How can we expect the economy to restructure during this pandemic? Historically, what has happened economically in past pandemics and/or in wartime? What can we expect recovery to be like after the dust settles, and what changes will persist?

slatedotcom5 karma

This isn't my area of expertise, but to repeat the phrase a true expert used this week....the economy may be in a coma. I imagine things will be pretty bad for a while, but then the economists and government decision makers will no doubt do everything they can to revive the economy and get us to a better place.

PapaDub1011 karma

If a person had Covid-19 a month or so ago and didn't know or recovered would a test now or later indicate they had been infected?

slatedotcom6 karma

probably not- at least not the tests that are currently being used

TheRealVR1 karma

Appears a health Emergency was declared on Jan 30th, is it common practice to hide this information from citizens? https://int.nyt.com/data/documenthelper/6819-covid-19-response-plan/d367f758bec47cad361f/optimized/full.pdf#page=1

slatedotcom4 karma

The public health emergency of international concern was declared on January 30th- announced in a live presser, watched by interested parties all over the world and open to the public. It was the reported on in the press and the subject of multiple journal articles and blogs (including some by me!)

lisa_lionheart841 karma

Having spent so much of your career on disease surveillance and public health emergencies, what has surprised the most you about 1) governmental response worldwide and 2) public response to COVID-19? Does this seem like previous outbreaks/pandemics, just on a different scale?

slatedotcom10 karma

There are a lot of things that I'm finding pretty surreal right now

I think one of the things that has surprised me is decision makers not taking this seriously enough early on. I'm also struggling with trying to convince the general public that they need to take action....now. I found it very distressing to see so many people out at bars Saturday night. This is dangerous. For you. For your parents and definitely for your grandparents.

We haven't seen anything at this scale in ~100 years

HatmadderTheWise1 karma

Good afternoon, and thank you for doing this! I currently live with my mom whom is 58 and use to smoke. She stopped about 6 years ago, and has never been diagnosed with any sort of immunodeficiency or breathing issues. How worried should I be for her safety compared to mine? Is she at a super high risk of critical sickness/death?

She works at a daycare that isn't closing (for now) and I'm afraid of her getting sick. It's honestly been keeping me up and night and I'm not sure what to do.

Thanks again for doing this AMA and for what you do. Stay safe!

slatedotcom5 karma

Suggest you have your mother call her provider, who should be familiar with her health history and be able to provide specific guidance on whether she should stay home

Aigalep1 karma

My employer in an office of 20 has instructed me to use household spray disinfectant twice daily to clean door handles and stair rails throughout the office. I’m using a separate piece of kitchen towel for each surface. I don’t mind doing this but how affective is this likely to be?

slatedotcom9 karma

Very. Household disinfectants work! CDC and the EPA have additional information on their websites

miradancer1 karma

Good Afternoon, Dr. Katz-

How does obesity contribute to less favorable outcomes with COVID-19?

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your knowledge and insight!

slatedotcom6 karma

My understanding is that obesity may be a contributing risk factor

desertlounger1 karma

What does the longer term look like for those most at risk, i.e. will outbreaks continue to occur periodically, so basically they will always be at risk until a [hopefully safe, effective] vaccine is developed?

slatedotcom5 karma

Basically Until the population becomes immune- either through natural immunity or through a vaccine.

But you also never totally know. SARS was fully controlled through very aggressive social distancing measures.

Boom123560 karma

Is this the end of humanity?

slatedotcom9 karma

no :-)

Boom12356-6 karma

How can you be sure. I dont see stores opening again or world ever seeing stuff like NHL NBA or even concerts

slatedotcom10 karma

We will get through this. It may be difficult for a while. But we will get through it