May 4, 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 Latasha Allen:
I am currently a disaster epidemiologist with the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services in the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and an environmental health officer on duty with the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. In this role I am always ready and able to respond to national emergencies that may pose a threat to public health, and I have responded to multiple public health emergencies, such as foodborne illness outbreaks and natural disasters. The response to this novel coronavirus pandemic is massive. Although I have prepared for my entire career, I never anticipated my training would be used at this level of practice.
I work on the ASPR data team within the Information Management Division, charged with managing information for the department during the COVID-19 federal response. We provide situational awareness to HHS leaders for decision making. We work collaboratively with all federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Whitehouse’s various COVID-19 taskforces. As a part of the data and analytics team - aka ASPR Data - we began monitoring the novel coronavirus when the first cases were reported in Wuhan, China. I remember seeing the notification on PubMed and CDC websites, so I was familiar when the HHS response was activated and we managed data on repatriating U.S. citizens from China and two cruise ships.
Staffing the HHS Secretary’s Operation Center (SOC) for long hours of data crunching, meetings, and reports quickly changed to long hours working virtually in collaboration with colleagues from the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC). This broader team provides situational reports that are distributed to our HHS leaders and additional partners, including our regional offices who work closely with the state and local public health and emergency management leaders. I specifically work on analyzing data on cases and deaths due to COVID-19, patient encounters, hospital capacity, ventilation usage, and dialysis patients to produce reports on the epidemiology, healthcare infrastructure (status, capacity and capability), and social and open media analysis. I’m honored to be using the skills and knowledge I gained at Tulane to contribute to the whole-of-America response to this pandemic.
Photo of Latasha Allen taken on board the USNS Comfort in 2017 when she was deployed to Puerto Rico. This uniform is the current uniform of the day for the USPHS Commissioned Corps.