The Weekly Dose
July 9, 2020
Welcome to The Weekly Dose! Each week, we will review one scientific article, summarizing the research and providing key takeaways. Our goal in this endeavor is to make science understandable and accessible to all.
An article published this week in The Lancet suggests that only about 5% of the Spanish population has developed antibodies to Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The study, which analyzed blood (serology) samples from 61,075 non-institutionalized Spanish residents in all regions of the country, moreover reported that “seroprevalence” 1 was higher in large cities than provincial towns, among healthcare workers than participants who work in other occupations, and in households where another member had been infected; and was lower among the oldest participants (85+) than younger participants. There was no evidence of differences in the seroprevalence of males and females. The authors also analyzed participants’ reports of COVID-like symptoms alongside antibody results, determining that 33% of individuals who had previously been infected with Sars-CoV-2 did not develop symptoms (i.e., were asymptomatic). 
  Key Takeaways:

  • Despite being severely affected2 by COVID-19, Spain remains susceptible to significant spread of the virus, as approximately 95% of Spanish residents are likely uninfected.
  • Achieving herd immunity without a vaccine (i.e., naturally) would require acceptance of some difficult outcomes, including a critically stressed healthcare system and many more deaths.  
  • Current measures to control the epidemic should remain in place. These include social distancing, identification and isolation of new cases, and contact tracing. 
  • The proportion of COVID-19-infected individuals who are “silently” spreading the disease (i.e., asymptomatic) may be as high as one-third.

1 Seroprevalence is the number of persons in a population who test positive for a specific disease based on serology (blood serum) specimens.
2 As of July 2, Spain reported 28,000 deaths among its 249,000 confirmed cases in a population of almost 47 million.
Who is VSC?

Vital Statistics Consulting (VSC) is a healthcare consultancy that specializes in the evaluation of policies and programs and provides independent, rigorous, innovative analysis to support data-driven recommendations that improve healthcare quality and organizational efficiency.
What's New at VSC?
VSC Responds to COVID-19: We are committed to supporting our partners who are dealing with issues associated with the COVID pandemic. Most recently, VSC was engaged to conduct a research study that isolates the footprint of prior COVID-19 infection among employees of a multi-site, geographically diverse Federally Qualified Health Center in New York State. Among other things, our research will estimate the proportion of employees who have developed antibodies in response to infection with SARS-CoV-2 and evaluate whether some employee types are more likely to have been infected than others. The study will contribute to the existing body of information about the exposure of COVID-19 among healthcare workers in the New York region. 

Employee Spotlight
Each week The Weekly Dose will introduce readers to one of our team members.

This week VSC’s Co-Founder & CEO, Dr. Jessica Steier , is in the “spotlight.” We have asked her three questions, the answers to which reveal some of her professional and personal inspiration to lead an entrepreneurial venture engaged in public health. 
Which people and/or events influenced your decision to work in this field?   

Watching my father battle emphysema for over a decade inspired me to pursue a career in public health. Specifically, I was drawn to work in health policy (tobacco policy, in particular) and chronic health prevention and management. My foray into public health started with an internship at the NYC Department of Health where I evaluated the impact of increased taxation on cigarettes, public bans on smoking in parks and beaches, and the self-identification of non-daily (or "social" smokers). I fell in love with data science. Sadly, I lost my father to this terrible disease about six months ago, and I will continue to fight for evidence-based public health interventions to improve population health and, of course, to honor his memory.

What was the answer you gave people as a child when asked what you want to be when you grow up? 

As a child, I dreamed of being a veterinarian. My mother is an animal lover and I grew up watching her rescue animals. We lived in a small apartment in South Brooklyn which was filled with dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds, iguanas, turtles, frogs, snails, and any animal in need of a home. I inherited that love of, and respect for, animals and nature, and am proud to have instilled that in my children. We have two rescue dogs (Scuppers and Klaus), two rescue cats (Marley and Rory), and I hope to rescue a pig in the near future! My dream is to one day have a small farm that can serve as a rescue sanctuary.

What advice would you give yourself 3 years ago? 3 years from now?  

Three years ago, I made the difficult decision to leave a stable, well-paid job at a respected health policy firm to pursue an entrepreneurial endeavor with my former professor and life-long mentor, Dr. Bill Gallo. Being a small business owner is not for the faint of heart! It has been a rollercoaster ride, filled with exciting highs and defeating lows. The advice I would give myself three years ago would be to celebrate the wins, even the small ones. It is easy to get hung up on the failures, but that does not mean that you failed -- it is simply a part of the process and the path to success. Looking to the future, the advice I would give myself is: don't forget to make yourself a priority! I am busy taking care of my family, my household, and my business, but I don't often make time for myself. My work ethic is definitely an asset, but I need to be careful to not burn the candle at both ends. Taking care of myself (even if that means unplugging from time to time) will actually benefit my business, clients, and everyone in my life.
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