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A Call to Action: Joanne Casarella

Photo of Joanne Casarella

April 24, 2020 – The School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine faculty, staff, students, and alumni are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak. We have asked any affiliates with our school to share their experiences and stories. This story comes from Joanne Casarella (BSPH 2011):

I’m a City Research Scientist in the Office of School Health at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. I have been activated on the agency’s COVID-19 emergency response since early February, initially working on general preparedness and recommended virus-control protocols for school based staff.

Once the decision was made to close NYC schools, my role in the response transitioned to investigating COVID-19 clusters in Article 28 and non Article 28 long term care facilities. In this role, I speak with nursing homes and assisted living facilities regarding their management of COVID-19 and provide guidance on best practices per NYS and CDC recommendations. I also advocate for any critical needs of these facilities, connecting them to staffing, PPE, and fatality management resources.

This role became even more meaningful to me as my grandmother who resided in a nursing home lost her battle to COVID-19 on April 20th.  ‘They lived their life’ or ‘They’re old’ are often statements we hear when referencing this population. We as public health practitioners are better than this. This adversity provides us with opportunities. We have an opportunity to help others see all life, especially the life of the most vulnerable as equally valuable to our own.  We have an opportunity to defend the elderly with the same passion and as we would our children, siblings, and spouses. We have an opportunity to advocate for the needs of these facilities as we would for other front line workers. As difficult as it has been to move forward with this work while dealing with a personal loss, I feel even more compelled to help this population as I would my own grandmother.

You can learn more about the NYC response at http://nyc.gov/health/coronavirus. To help New Yorkers affected by COVID-19 and to find COVID-19 related assistance, visit NYC.gov/helpnow.

Joanne Casarella with Grandmother

(Photo: Joanne Casarella with her Grandmother)