Let’s stop saying ‘breakthrough cases’ – it isn’t helping

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland


Throughout the pandemic, public health experts have communicated critical COVID-19 guidance to the American people in ways that are confounding — and sometimes contradictory. Examples of mixed messages by public health officials since the start of the pandemic are plentiful. From mask practices to back-to-school recommendations to booster shots, confusion and ambiguity have circulated, creating uncertainty at times as to what people can do to stay safe. …

By trumpeting the term “breakthrough cases,” public health authorities are spreading the impression that these infections are novel, unique and unanticipated by the scientific community. In fact, the vaccine was designed precisely with this likelihood in mind, and it is working exactly as intended. …

For leaders to lead, they need people to trust them. To build trust in the vaccine, public health officials need to be clear in how it works. They need to state that though infections can still occur, even after receiving boosters, symptoms will be mild for most Americans — and that such infections are part of the calculus in getting the vaccine, not a reason to question its efficacy. They must avoid and openly challenge terms that reaffirm preconceived beliefs, not perpetuate them in the public discourse.

Miserly Manchin stole Christmas and hope from American families

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland


Last week marked the last enhanced monthly child tax credit payment to millions of disadvantaged Americans thanks to one man in Congress: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). His announcement that he will not support the Build Back Better Act will terminate this critical economic relief, which vulnerable families were counting on to help support themselves next year. …

The extension was moving children out of poverty and providing essential support to families across the country. Families in need don’t care about Republican or Democratic politics: they care about safe housing, paying their bills and feeding their children. …

His role as a Democratic obstacle on spending proposals took priority over his compassion to help struggling Americans make ends meet, including those in his own state. He should be ashamed.

Sen. Manchin: Don’t cut early learning relief for working families

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

November 18, 2021

All eyes will soon be on Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) as the Build Back Better Act moves through Congress. The fiscal Democrat is expected to force program cuts to rein in spending proposals by party progressives in exchange for his support. 

One of the bill’s provisions seeks to provide meaningful early learning opportunities for millions of children and help their families level the economic playing field. The far-reaching impact of these measures is too important to be used as a bargaining chip to secure Manchin’s vote for the broader legislation. …

America needs this investment. The proposed preschool and child care programs will do a world of good. Any attempt to chip away at these provisions, or eliminate them altogether, only undermines the spirit of the Build Back Better Act. 

Millions of children and their families will benefit from these programs. They can’t be casualties of political negotiations to win Manchin’s vote. There’s too much at stake.

Health professionals are quitting in droves – can we blame them?

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

October 30, 2021

The recent discovery of the “delta plus” COVID-19 mutation has many experts worried, especially now with colder months approaching that will soon drive more people indoors. If it spreads and creates another spike in cases this winter, the nation will face a delta of a different kind that will severely hinder our ability to fight it: Fewer public health and medical workers. 

As COVID-19 evolves, our behavior must evolve with it

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

September 9, 2021

President Biden’s order to make third booster shots available to all Americans starting Sept. 20 may have been a well-intended move to try and strengthen immunity against the increasing threat of the delta variant. But the recent resignations of two top U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaccine officials do not inspire confidence that the White House has removed politics from public health. …

Public health experts don’t have all the answers on COVID-19 because we are not in control of COVID-19. The safety protocols being recommended today to protect ourselves and those around us may be entirely different from those that will be recommended six months from now. As the pandemic changes, we must adapt accordingly by listening, following, and trusting the data. 

But the ability of public health professionals to do their job becomes infinitely harder when elected leaders make proclamations and statements on matters, such as a third booster shot, when the data is still being analyzed. Let’s let science prevail, and give the experts the chance to interpret the results and provide guidance. 

Every American deserves clean drinking water and working sewer systems

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

August 11, 2021

A rare glimpse of bipartisanship was seen in Washington this week as U.S. Senate Democrats and Republicans worked together to advance the long-anticipated infrastructure bill. The debate over how the legislation’s proposed $1 trillion will be allocated will no doubt continue as the bill moves to the U.S. House. But there should be no question over the need to dedicate a meaningful portion of those resources to fix a glaring failure of our nation’s infrastructure that today impacts the safety and health of millions across the nation: unclean drinking water and inadequate sewage systems.

No one wants to say it: We need to mask up again

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

July 25, 2021

No one wants to go back to wearing masks again. But people are dying, and if we can’t voluntarily abide by the public health measures that we know to be effective at minimizing the spread of the pandemic, such as mask-wearing, state and federal mandates must be considered. We must deploy every method possible to reverse the current trend of infection. Continued social distancing, hand washing, increased testing — and yes mask-wearing — must be revisited to save lives and reduce suffering. 

When will we make child dental health a national priority?

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

July 2, 2021

As Congress enters the July 4 recess, the debate over the American Families Plan continues on, and questions remain as to how families will pay their bills, support their kids and afford health care. Missing from the discussion, however, is how America has failed children by ignoring the importance of routine pediatric dental care. And the plan to fix it is nowhere to be found.

We need to prioritize the dental wellbeing of America’s youth, especially in communities of color. We can no longer expect states to put money toward an unfunded federal initiative that’s been ineffectual for nearly a decade. It’s time we have a national plan — with meaningful federal resources — to make it happen.

Make Medicare and Medicaid telehealth coverage permanent

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

June 11, 2021

During the pandemic, under a national emergency declaration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reduced certain regulatory requirements for telemedicine by allowing states and providers to be reimbursed for audio and video visits. … Continuing Medicare and Medicaid coverage for telehealth visits is smart policy. It just makes good common sense. Let’s make it permanent and improve the health and wellbeing of all Americans.

If Congress can’t work together to address child hunger we’re doomed

By Dr. Lyndon Haviland

May 12, 2021

President Biden has made it abundantly clear that improving the lives of children will be a focal point of his administration. Just weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched a new initiative that stands to feed over 30 million needy children this summer. And the centerpiece of his proposed American Families Plan is a bold investment in the future of America’s youth by expanding access to early education and child care, and providing economic relief to families through child tax credit extensions.

Another provision of the American Families Plan addresses a critical need the pandemic has further magnified. But it’s one Republicans have historically opposed: expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Whether this increase will survive will depend largely on bipartisan efforts to resolve the national tragedy of food insecurity.