Posted on: February 27, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by Jackson Edwards

By Jackson Edwards, Photo Editor

“Be prepared…for a change in life as we know it.”

That was the message from the CDC when COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency, according to Dr. Cricel Molina, an expert in public health from DePaul University.

Molina held a talk in Moraine’s library Feb. 15 entitled, “How Did We All Become Amateur Epidemiologists: Public Health Lessons on the Covid-19 Pandemic.” She discussed her studies of  the impact of COVID-19 and encouraged students to get involved with public health.

“Health care is vital to all of us some of the time, but public health is vital to us all of the time,” Molina said, quoting former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. 

After all the mixed emotions the pandemic has caused people, Molina said, “I want students to get a better understanding of where we are right now with COVID.”

In the United States, we have had more than 103 million cases and 1.12 million reported deaths resulting from COVID-19 in two years. And COVID-19 has become the leading cause of death in multiple countries.

DePaul professor Dr. Cricel Molina’s talk is available to view on the Moraine library YouTube channel.

COVID-19 took the world by storm suddenly in March of 2020, leaving many people wondering what was in their future. The people’s concern continued to grow, and at the time misinformation was being spread from our most trusted health organizations and officials, Molina said. 

“The CDC said, ‘Nobody needs to wear a mask.’ Then more data came out and they said, ‘Actually, this is droplet transmission. Wear a mask,’” Molina said.

In the early stages of the pandemic, minimal treatment and information was being  provided, she said.

“Even I was frustrated,” Molina said. 

However, studies in public health have enhanced our knowledge exponentially in the past three years, Molina pointed out. We see many regulations shifting depending on the state and mandates being lifted.

What has been learned in the past two  years includes updated guidelines, improved isolation periods, and a better understanding of transmission, according to Molina. Studies have shown that factors like ventilation or outdoor activities lower the risk of COVID. 

Will we see the end of COVID-19?

“We are still in a global pandemic,” Molina said, expressing  that the major goal in public health and in society is to reach the epidemic level. 

Based on her research over the years of the pandemic, Molina said it is likely that we are now past the height of the pandemic. However, she said, “we will never reach a level of herd immunity because we didn’t vaccinate enough people in the general population quick enough.”

So what is our new normal? Molina pointed out that the flu, which was once a global pandemic, is now considered epidemic. She said we should take lessons from the way the flu is handled, and public health would need to bring attention to trends and behavior along with the people. 

Molina suggests people should not “write off the CDC” and try to regain trust in our leading health organizations. She cautioned that not everything that is read should be believed and that we should vet this information. 

“Misinformation is the biggest threat to public health,” she said. “It’s really easy for us to confirm our biases–really easy.” 

Public health workers are the “investigators” or the “detectives” when it comes to public health in a “very science-driven way,” and Molina encouraged students to invest themselves in the field. 

Students can contribute to public health by achieving an associate’s degree in Health Sciences, a bachelor’s degree in Public Health, a master’s degree in Public Health, a doctorate in Public Health, and Joint Programs (MD/MPH Nursing/MPH).