Emergency Management Expert Dr. Gregory Ciottone Addresses COVID-19

April 3, 2020

(Paxton, MA) – April 3, 2020 – Dr. Gregory Ciottone, Medical Director of Anna Maria College’s Health Emergency Management Program, discusses Coronavirus and the emergency response currently underway. Dr. Gregory Ciottone is a nationally recognized leader in the health emergency management field. He is author of the leading textbook in the field, Ciottone’s Disaster Medicine. He also holds an appointment as Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Q: Dr. Ciottone, what do we know about COVID-19 that we didn’t know a month ago?

A: We still don’t know everything but we are learning more every day. COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus, that is, it’s new. There are still some unknowns, but with more people being tested, we are able to see more data on attack rates, hospitalization and ICU rates, death rates, etc. that can help inform next steps. The medical community is monitoring this data very closely. For example, one factor of great interest is immunity. Typically, there is some immunity with other coronaviruses and infectious diseases in general. In the case of COVID-19, we are paying close attention to those who tested positive and have since recovered, to understand the extent and duration of any immunity that is conveyed.

 Q: Is there any consensus among emergency management experts on where we are in terms of the pandemic’s timeline?

A: There’s a lot of modeling taking place but also many variables so nothing is 100 percent right now. The community-level mitigation underway will help blunt the curve, but by how much and when we don’t know. There is consensus around mitigation. It’s critical that we continue to promote public education about health and repeat messages like washing your hands, use of sanitizing solutions, social distancing, and staying at home. These are the ways we can help mitigate the spread of this virus.

Q: NYC appears to be very hard hit. Are there elements of NYC’s response effort that other cities should emulate (or prepare for)?

A: While we cannot predict the next hotspots, cities should take every opportunity to prepare. They should assume the virus will come as a surge. I already mentioned mitigation strategies. Cities should also use this time to review their plans, look at emergency staffing levels, look at inventories of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), COVID-19 test kits, ventilators and other critical care equipment. They can make plans for alternate testing sites to help make sure emergency rooms are used only for emergencies. And, with emergency rooms, those locations can use this time to plan for separately located screening areas to help separate traditional ER visits from COVID-19 cases. Communities need to do their best planning now to prepare for having a surge on their hospitals.

Q: It’s clearly too early to talk about recovery, but what are the determinants you look for to indicate that a recovery is underway?

A: The most obvious determinant will be a decline in the number of new cases. Also, we look for a decline in community spread. I mentioned immunity earlier and that is another factor. While we don’t know yet how much immunity there will be or how long it will last, generally speaking immunity decreases the number of people who can transmit the disease which means less spread. These are all factors, among others, that will help make decisions on when and how to de-escalate the current home isolation measures.

Q: Are there any lessons learned at this point?

A: Yes. As a population, we better understand disease transmission. People are more conscientious about handwashing, social distancing and other sanitary practices. This is a good thing in general and we need to incorporate these practices into our daily routines going forward. They will help us enormously in the future with other viruses.


In the wake of the growing number of natural and man-made disasters and disease outbreaks, the demand for trained professionals to anticipate and manage response efforts for these kinds of events has been steadily increasing. To meet this need, Anna Maria College is collaborating with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Fellowship in Disaster Medicine to provide a one-of-a-kind Master of Science in Health Emergency Management program for medical graduate students and trained health professionals, including physicians, nurses, physician assistants, paramedics and EMTs. More information about the Master of Health Emergency Management Program is available at https://www.annamaria.edu/about-hem. Additionally, Anna Maria offers a Certificate in Health Emergency Management for students with an advanced degree interested in pursuing the specific knowledge in the field of emergency and or disaster management.  To learn more about the Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management visit https://www.annamaria.edu/em-school/emergency-management.

About Anna Maria College

Located just outside of Worcester in Paxton, MA, Anna Maria College is a private, co-educational institution inspired by the ideals of the Sisters of Saint Anne. We prepare students to become ethical leaders by combining a values-based, service-focused education with strong functional knowledge and the skills necessary to address the rapidly changing needs of their world. Anna Maria delivers undergraduate and graduate degrees along with certificate programs on campus and online. For more information, visit www.annamaria.edu.

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