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Gina Gambony State Health Commissioner, Dr. Norman Oliver is here to talk about how to protect yourself from COVID-19 as Virginia walks through the reopening process. Thank you for joining us, Dr. Oliver.

Dr. Norman Oliver Thank you for having me.

GG I understand that you received your master's degree in medical anthropology and I am so curious about what that means.

NO Disease and health and how they develop and express themselves in populations has a lot to do with the culture, social and economic conditions that those people live in and I, I studied that to get a good understanding of how that impacts disease and health.

GG That's really interesting, and it seems like it would be really applicable during something like a pandemic.

NO Very much the case, very applicable in lots of healthcare settings. In terms of COVID-19, I think one of the insights that I have there related to my background in anthropology is the understanding that racial discrimination for example leads to distort have health inequities that we see in communities of color. So greater incidence of diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and other things that have existed before the pandemic sets that community up for being much more vulnerable to COVID-19. And that's what we've seen. A disproportionate amount of COVID-19 in those communities, disproportionately high death1, from COVID-19 in African Amer ican and Latino communities. So we know that that is the case and we've been trying to target those communities with the things they need to protect themselves. So going forward as we open up, having people wear masks, facial coverings is extremely important to help prevent the spread of the virus. So we've been distributing tens of thousands of masks in those communities. Doing education around the importance of hand washing with soap water. We have an app called COVID Check that you can access through our website, VHF. You check your symptons and it will point you to a test site, if that's required. So, I think that doing those sorts of things will help those communities which are most vulnerable protect themselves from COVID-19.

GG Right. And, you know, we're opening up we're entering phase two. And there are restrictions that are falling away right now. Can you tell me some of the restrictions that are going away at this point?

NO Just as an example, prior to phase two, you could get food from your favorite restaurant by takeout or delivery. And now you could, if you like, go and dine in at that restaurant. There are still some restrictions, you'll be asked to wear a mask if you're not eating or drinking. You won't be able to congregate at the bar or waiting areas in order to keep crowds down, but you'll still be able to go in and eat. Last week I went and got some new glasses. And unlike the last time I visited my optometrist, this time, I had to wear a mask. They were wearing masks. I had to get my temperature checked, I had to answer a small questionnaire about whether or not I had any symptoms of COVID-19, but I was able to go and do that appointment. So things will open up slightly, but we'll still be protecting ourselves and our loved ones from the spread of the disease.

GG Dr. Oliver, it seems inevitable that we will have an increase in cases of COVID-19 as we are opening up it. It feels like, how could we not? Is there any way around that or is there any other way to see it?

NO I believe you're correct. As we open up, there will be more social interaction and increased risk of getting the virus. So I think it's important to know that while we're opening up, that COVID-19 is still out there. And I think what you folks need to understand is that we can do this because we know how to protect ourselves from that virus even if we're out doing more than we have to last couple of months. If we wear our masks when we're out in public, we will significantly cut down the spread of the virus. My wearing a mask protects you, and your wearing a mask protects me. And all of us wearing masks will protect the community as a whole. Washing our hands frequently with soap and water will greatly reduce the spread of disease. If we do those sorts of things, we will, I think, be doing everything we can to avoid a rebound in the fall.

The other thing that folks should know is that we do understand that this could mean increase in cases and we're prepared for that. We've greatly expanded our workforce so that we can identify cases early, get them the care that they need. find out whether or not they've exposed others, have those of people who've been exposed into quarantine, and then that way contain and box in the virus and prevent a big spread, or bump in the disease.

To find out about how we're doing those sorts of things and preparing for possible resurgence of the disease, please visit our website And there's a lot of good information there.

GG It sounds like it's really up to human behavior, in terms of how this all goes. How the reopening goes, it's up to us, individually.

NO You're so right. It gets back to the anthropology thing, right? It's on our behavior. And in that regard, I'm really wanting to send out a big thank you to Virginians, because their behavior this past spring, led to the fact that we've had, I believe a very good outcome. Because of the really good job that Virginians did, tens of thousands of cases of COVID-19 were prevented, and hundreds of lives were saved. Virginians stayed at home, they isolated themselves from one another. And as tough as that was for us individually, as a community, as a Commonwealth, I think it really helped put a damper on the pandemic here in Virginia. So thank you for doing that. And I know that that same sort of commitment on the part of Virginians will be shown going forward with them wearing a mask and washing their hands and helping to contain this virus as we open up.

GG Thank you so much for taking time with us Dr. Norman Oliver, Virginia State Health Commissioner.

NO Thank you.