Good morning. Thank you for allowing me to give opening words today. I am currently in San Antonio, Texas, having been placed on active duty back in late March to support the military’s Covid-19 response. While I have been down here at Fort Sam Houston, my team and I on the Surgeon’s Staff are alternately amazed and jaded by what the year 2020 has thrown at us. So much of it is interconnected. Spill over zoonotic events arise when humans and the messy wilderness get too close. Hurricane seasons seem to be getting crazier as our dependence on fossil fuels can’t be controlled. Wildfires seasons and vector borne disease vulnerability seasons keep expanding and I help map the overlap of the current St. Louis encephalitis range with the wildland fires that service members are fighting in California.
Here is today’s example of YOU PAID FOR IT. This is a map of Eta’s anticipated path as of Friday, with the counties with West Nile virus (human and animal) in green.
On the digital Esri version of this map I can pull up additional layers of eastern equine encephalitis, locally transmitted dengue, Covid-19 hospitalization rates and testing locations. Yes, that is right, I said locally transmitted dengue, a disease of poverty, here in one of the upper keys in Florida and also in Miami Dade County. This mapping ability is pretty neat, and helps us in the military to evaluate risk and plan in case we are called on to support states who ask for it.
Part of me is relieved that there is such great job security for entomologists with public health experience. But another part of me wishes that it wasn’t needed, that science denial wasn’t so rampant, that the culture wars didn’t contribute so environmental, medical and economic devastation. I am doubtful my own individual efforts are enough. I wish I knew how to end the culture wars. It may require more patience, love and extroversion in dealing with those who have opposing political views than I have. But I will try.