COVID: What comes next - With Dr. Ashish JhaCOVID: What comes next - With Dr. Ashish Jha

Welcome to Episode 37 of “COVID: What comes next,” an exclusive weekly Providence Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK podcast featuring Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and an internationally respected expert on pandemic response and preparedness

View descriptionShare

COVID: What comes next - With Dr. Ashish Jha

Long before COVID, Dr. Ashish Jha was an internationally respected expert on pandemic response and preparedness. In September 2020, Jha left his posit 
41 clip(s)
Loading playlist

PROVIDENCE – Do not expect a repeat of the grim fall and winter holidays of last year, when the pandemic raged. Instead, people in many parts of the U.S. can look forward to more traditional celebrations, now that “the delta surge of the summer has clearly turned a corner.” 

Such was the assessment on Tuesday by Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, during taping of the 37th taping of the “COVID: What Comes Next” podcast. 

“The horrible surge of the South, I think, is over,” Jha said. During the summer, he said, “Florida was among the worst in the world and now it’s well below national average.” 

Jha cited data confirming that nationally, infections, hospitalizations’ and deaths are in decline. But, the physician and scientist warned, “I think there are pockets of concern. Certainly in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains… In North Dakota, Montana, large parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, you're seeing infection numbers still rising, and I'm worried.” 

But for residents elsewhere, Jha said, the end of 2022 should be better than the last months of 2021, starting with Halloween. 

“Is it safe to go trick-or-treating? Absolutely,” said Jha. “Halloween may not be 100% normal, but let's say, very, very, very close to normal.” 

His one hesitation? 

The fact that the federal government has yet to grant emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children age five to 11. Approval is expected soon, but not in time for kids in that youngest age group to get the first and second shots required to reach full immunity. 

And for that reason, Jha urged trick-or-treaters to wear masks if they enter a residence to get their candy. He also said “especially with young kids, I wouldn’t do a house party.” 

If all guests and members of a household – including the youngsters -- are fully vaccinated, Thanksgiving and the December holidays should be as they were in 2019 and previous years, Ashish said. Those willing to err on the side of caution, he added, should consider rapid testing, particularly if someone attending a gathering is not vaccinated. 

  “If you really want to be extra careful,” he said, “give everybody a rapid test before they come over for Thanksgiving dinner. It takes 15 minutes,” and the cost, now at about $10, is expected to drop, according to Jha said. 

When everyone tests negative, Jha said, “I don't know what else you can do to make it safer. You're in an exquisitely safe situation.” 

Jha said that once approval is given to the Pfizer vaccine for young children, he will arrange for his nine-year-old child to be inoculated as soon as possible. 

And then he discussed an issue concerning many parents and guardians of children in the five-to-11 group: what factor does a child’s weight play? Pfizer has recommended doses for the youngest children to be one-third of those now administered to people 12 and older – but some 11-year-olds weigh much more than their peers. 

 “I do wish that we could do this in more of a weight-based method,” Jha said. 

Given that is not the case, he said, “this is a conversation with your pediatrician… It may be reasonable to go in a different direction, but really based on the guidance of your physician.”  

Asked about recently enacted vaccine mandates for healthcare workers in Rhode Island and many parts of the country, Jha hailed them as a success, saying that nationally, only about one percent of such workers have declined. 

“There is always going to be a small, noisy minority -- you know, the one nurse who so strongly refuses that he or she is willing to lose their job. Those are just extremely rare.” 

Jha addressed the issue of flu season coinciding again with COVID. 

“Last year, the flu basically didn't show up, he said. “And the reason is we did a lot of masking and hand-washing… and social-distancing. That made a big difference. 

“What I suspect is going to happen this year with less masking, less social-distancing, is we're going to see a lot more flu. I'm hoping that some of the lessons of COVID will keep the flu level from getting horrible.” Hand-washing remains critical to prevent spread of influenza. 

Jha urged all to get their flu shots if they haven’t already. 

The dean also answered an audience question from a man in New Jersey who wrote:  

“We have a healthy 11-year-old son who turns 12 around Dec 1.  However, under the assumption that vaccines become eligible for kids 5-11 by the end of October, does Dr. Jha have any thoughts/data about kids that age getting the lower dose right away?  Or if there are any benefits/reasons to waiting the extra month to get the same dosage kids 12+ have been getting for a while?” 

Here, too, Jha recommended a discussion with a pediatrician. 


The “COVID: What Comes Next” podcast, available exclusively from The Providence Journal and the USA TODAY NETWORK, debuted in late October, 2020. Nearly nine hours have been recorded through this, the 37th episode. 

  • Facebook
  • X (Twitter)
  • WhatsApp
  • Email
  • Download

In 1 playlist(s)

  1. COVID: What comes next - With Dr. Ashish Jha

    41 clip(s)

COVID: What comes next - With Dr. Ashish Jha

Long before COVID, Dr. Ashish Jha was an internationally respected expert on pandemic response and p 
Social links
Follow podcast
Recent clips
Browse 41 clip(s)