Dr. Amelie Ramirez Joins New Team to Guide San Antonio in Reopening Economy after Social Distancing


Amelie Ramirez Latino Health Champion 2018
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San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff announced the addition of Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio, to the COVID-19 Health Transition Team, which is working on a plan to slowly reopen the city economy after social distancing.

Nirenberg and Wolff wrote a joint memo that stay-at-home rules have saved lives.

Yet they acknowledge social distancing isn’t permanent.

“Our community needs a local strategy to reenter into everyday life,” Nirenberg and Wolff wrote. “These decisions have critical implications on our community – including our ability to avoid subsequent outbreaks, ensure we protect our most vulnerable populations, especially those in high-risk professions, and to identify parameters for transitioning into/out of restrictions.”

Dr. Amelie Ramirez
Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez

UPDATE April 29, 2020: Ramirez and the COVID-19 Health Transition Team have released A Guide to Reopening San Antonio and Bexar County, a multi-phase plan for reopening our community as safely as possible.

“This guidance is based on existing public health evidence, data, and expertise, and informed by shared values, including a commitment to equity and service to the community,” according to the report. “For safe re-opening, we recognize that our community needs more education about COVID-19, improved access to testing for COVID-19, and an expansion of our existing public health capacity for contact tracing and follow up. We also must focus our efforts on those who are medically at risk and on marginalized populations.”

They will present the strategy to several working groups named earlier by Nirenberg and Wolff to recommend measures for long-term recovery, community rebuilding, and ongoing disease prevention.

Barbara Taylor, associate professor of infectious diseases at UT Health San Antonio, is team chair.

Team members include:

  • Dr. Ramirez, chair of Population Health Sciences and director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio, as well as a local, national, and international leader in research on Latino health and health equity issues
  • Dr. Dawn Emerick, City of San Antonio Metro Health Director
  • Dr. Junda Woo, City of San Antonio Metro Health Medical Director
  • Dr. Ruth Berggren, UT Health San Antonio infectious disease specialist
  • Dr. Bryan Alsip, University Health System Chief Medical Officer
  • Dr. Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, public health consultant
  • Dr. Tom Patterson, Chair of Infectious Disease, UT Health Science Center
  • Dr. Carrie DeWitt, group manager and infectious disease physician
  • Dr. Jason Morrow, Medical Director of Inpatient Palliative Care Services at UHS

Led by Dr. Ramirez, our team at Salud America! is digitally curating content about what the coronavirus pandemic means for Latino health equity and efforts to help vulnerable communities, like San Antonio.

“We want to ensure the Latino population gets an equitable share of culturally relevant information during the pandemic and beyond,” Ramirez said.

San Antonio City Council Member Ana Sandoval, chair of the Community Health and Equity Committee, will serve as City Council’s liaison to the Health Transition Team.

Commissioner Justin Rodriguez will be the liaison for Bexar County Commissioners Court.

Amanda Merck coronavirus reopening team
Amanda Merck

In addition, Salud America! curator Amanda Merck is a member of the Population Health Advisory Committee, a group of public health advocates working to provide advice and guidance on issues related to public health and the COVID-19 pandemic in San Antonio. They are proposing strategies for reopening the city as well as ways to provide more space for physical activity outdoors with sufficient space for physical distancing.

“The whole effort is to make sure that we can begin to enjoy some of the activities we used to but also prevent a second wave of this pandemic and end up in an even worst spot than we are now,” Nirenberg said, according to the Rivard Report.

“That has to be done thoughtfully, that has to be driven by public health first. So that’s why it’s important to convene medical professionals to come up with the rules of the road.”

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