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Business as Usual
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Getting our children back to school is well underway. No matter if your child is going back to the physical classroom, learning from home or taking a hybrid approach, health and safety is the top concern. We are excited to welcome Dr. Susan Manzi, Physician Chairperson at Allegheny Health Network, and Jeff Bernhard, SVP for Highmark Health, to provide top tips and take your questions about ensuring your child's health in and out of the classroom during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Join us for this important conversation, and let's get our children back to school safely.





Good afternoon, everyone. It is back to school week post Labor Day. And we have a week of great guests. And this is business as usual. I'm Audrey Russo, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council. And I'm joined with Jonathan Kersting. We've all had a long break and we're excited to be back. And Jonathan Kersting is all things media and marketing and so he will be managing the chat. So I know there are many people that still took a long break but we are forging ahead at the tech council because this is We kick off September. So I want to thank Huntington Bank, Sheetz and Comcast for being sponsors. If you don't know anything about them, you really should. Huntington Bank has been long advocates in small businesses, and very active in the community on all things civic, civic minded, they've been great partners with Sheetz. If you don't know anything about sheets, you really probably should just go to the sheets and check them out. Because they are a serious business who has very committed to reinventing themselves consistently with a strong focus on their customer. They actually have an innovation center right here in Pittsburgh where they're working on the future of Sheetz. We actually had Travis Sheetz on our show a few weeks ago, and you can find that in our archives. And then there's Comcast Business. They've been with us through the journey of trying to address the digital divide, as well as making sure that everyone has Wi Fi who really needs it, because guess what Today marks will Really the official day of back to school. And we know that there's lots of things going on in terms of back school, whether it's real in time in class, whether it's hybrid, or actually, it's, as I refer, students are now quote, unquote, working from home, just like many of the rest of us. So exciting times. And the topic that we're going to talk about today is so timely, and we have our guests today. We have Dr. Susan, and my computer just went off.

Unknown Speaker  2:35  
I don't know if you can hear me,

Unknown Speaker  2:36  
you're in there. You're all good. Keep going.

Unknown Speaker  2:39  
I'm all good, good because I can't see a thing. My daughter just went off. So I am going to continue to talk but I'm going to tell you that we have two guests today. And the guests today are going to introduce themselves so I am going to pass the baton and tell and just let Dr. Susan Manzi position chairperson Allegheny Health Network. And next we have Jeff Bernhard. He's the SVP for commercial markets at Highmark Health, who's officially moved to Pittsburgh from Houston. So I'd like to start with Dr. manzi. He has been offering some clinical advice to local school districts as they prepare for the plans. Right, today is the day. But before we talk about that, tell us a little bit about your role at a agenne. And then tell us about your work with local school districts, and why that has been and continues to be an imperative for

Unknown Speaker  3:38  
sure. So first of all, thanks so much for having me be a part of the program. So I am a physician chair person for our Medicine Institute, which basically oversees all the specialties within internal medicine. But my real reason for being here is because during co At Allegheny Health Network was an essential business. We were a hospital health care system, we had to stay open and we had to navigate, keeping our employees safe, our patients safe in a very uncertain time. And through that experience, we gained a tremendous amount of brain trust, quite frankly, the clinicians have Ah, and experts from all different aspects of how you have to manage a business during covid pandemic. And so, we decided at the probably somewhere around May or June, that we should share that expertise. There were a lot of businesses that were planning to get back to work, the schools trying to get back into the school year. And so we started something called physician consultant for business and I should say probably should say physician consultant for schools as well because a lot of school districts and you Universities have been clients of ours. And we're basically bringing a personal physician advisory role into your leadership team within your schools to try to help you manage day to day, all of the challenges related to COVID. Number one, getting ready to get back to school. But also, as we know, this is likely going to be an 18 month to two year ordeal. And so there's going to be ups and downs and new things that get thrown at us. And we're really here to provide some advice and help to you during that time.

Unknown Speaker  5:39  
It's a lot, it's a lot. And so as you talk to school districts, which you have been doing, what are some of the biggest concerns and questions that they're looking for advice on? Is there any pattern?

Unknown Speaker  5:51  
Yeah, so you know, it's interesting, there are definitely patterns but with a sort of a unique customized twist for every school has something that's a little Different but first and foremost, they want to know should they be virtual? Or should they go in person? Now some of these I have to say some of these decisions are out of our control as physicians and clinicians, because local and state governments have made rules and guidelines for a lot of the schools that they need to abide by a lot of it depending on the prevalence of COVID. At any given time, however, given all of that, the questions they have is if we're going to be in person, how do we prevent outbreaks? And so we try to help guide them in terms of social distancing. And, and believe me, if somebody said to me, what are the three things you must do three things you must do to try to keep your students safe. It's social distancing, masking and hand hygiene, social distancing, masking and hand hygiene, everybody Go straight to testing, right? All the schools want to know how to test. If the test everybody, you can test your way out of those three things, because that's how you prevent spread of the virus period. So we help them with that strategies around that we do bring a lab vendor partner to the table, if they have testing needs, we can try to help them solve for those, but more importantly, when to test what to do with those results. One of the most important things and I'm going to say this right out of the gate, because if you don't get anything out of this, but this you have to hear this, people feel that let's say you have a student or somebody that tests positive Mm hmm. Now you have to do contact tracing will help you with how you do contact tracing to identify who's at risk have been around this person. Now, what do you do with those people that have been around somebody that's tested positive you have to quarantine right for Team days of quarantine, every single school district has asked us How can they test people to get them out of quarantine sooner. They want to test their way out of 14 days. Can't do that. Okay, you cannot do that. Because this virus has an incubation period sort of a prodromal period what before it may you may test positive up to 14 days. So you cannot test out a quarantine number one. So it's those kinds of questions that we help them with. I think most of all on dealing with testing, dealing with quarantine dealing with contact tracing, and how to keep kids safe, and employee say,

Unknown Speaker  8:42  
and so, you know, it's interesting that you know, the hand washing, right, I mean, so I'm trying to imagine if I was a kindergarten teacher, and trying to make sure that I'm having kids keep their distance and etc. What about the handwashing is a pure l or that kind of Or is it just chronic hand washing? What are you telling me as a teacher?

Unknown Speaker  9:05  
So the good news, the only good news about this virus, which is highly contagious, is that you can kill it pretty easily. That's good because there are certain viruses you cannot. So any of the hand sanitizers, hand sanitizers will kill the bug, as well soap and water. You know what we tell little kids that kindergarteners and there's different things you can tell them to sing a song, right sing Happy Birthday for your other washing. The other one we tell them is to make bubble gloves. So they get with soap and water and they do it until there's bubbles all over their hands like little bubble gloves, and then they rinse their hand so they're a little tricks of the trade, but the PRL and the hand sanitizers work just as well.

Unknown Speaker  9:47  
Okay, and their kids are able to keep those masks on.

Unknown Speaker  9:52  
So there's different ways that you can get around that so one are masks. The other are the shields now, the shields have become very popular with some of the kids, right? Because they don't feel as confined. They're cute. So some of them will have a little superhero up here, they come down, but the shield has to come around by the ears, and it has to come under the chin, right? So you have to protect all these areas. The kids seem to want to wear those and they feel like they're in, you know, they can talk they can see the teachers mouth, teachers using them as well. So sometimes that's another option, and they're both effective, they could both be effective if used properly.

Unknown Speaker  10:33  
Okay. All right. So those are some, some good examples. I imagine that you continue to be busy as the weeks. Yes. So let's go over to Jeff. Jeff, welcome to Pittsburgh. I know that you've been here for a year, but now you're officially in Pittsburgh, you're the SVP for commercial markets and Highmark health. So you serve a lot of local school districts actually, they're your customers. So schools are heading back The normal you know, back school supply list has obviously grown right? I mean, it's not just, you know, the computer, the pencil, the erasers, etc. It's now hand sanitizers, disinfectants, and just what Dr. manzi was talking about in terms of the group, he kind of has really stepped up though they in terms of helping with supplies, so talk about the back to school kits that you've actually offered, and how that was launched and how it's working.

Unknown Speaker  11:29  
Sure, thanks for having me to the show. Great to be in the Pittsburgh area. So to start with, I would say 90% of the school districts in western Pennsylvania, we cover their employees. So we it's a it's a big population that we've had for a number of years, and we service them. So one of the things that we thought was really important, Susan, by both, I mean, for the folks who don't realize Highmark health is a system owns both VA health insurance carrier primer plan, and also Allegheny Health. So through this integrated network, we're really the second largest integrated network in the country behind Kaiser Permanente. So what that means is that we have expertise on both sides. And when Susan and I, we do a lot of these interviews together, both from the insurer side and the Allegheny side, we realized that as we start to speak to school districts, they really had, they really had a big gap of knowledge and they were anxious to learn about different things they need to do, because one of the things we have is access to expertise, CDC information, we obviously have a lot of clinicians and we realize we need to provide this information. So part of our mission is to certainly serve the communities that we serve, we decided to donate a number of tool kit. Back to School kits, which I saw Jonathan you put in the link where for all of our customers, we have about 400 different school districts. We provided them a link, and all they had to do was send in their code. And what we would do is mail on our back to school supplies, back to school supplies included cleaners, and sanitizers, masks, shields posters, in addition to all types of information that people could have to help the children and teachers get back to school. It's not just the children. It's also the faculty that we have to deal with we also and help them improve. We also have a seminar Susan was on it, I was on it. And we had well over 250 different people attend. So in addition to the supplies, we're just we're trying to become a source of information, whether it's trying to figure out how to get sport school sports back and running, whether it's about how to distance people appropriately on the buses. I mean, there's so many different topics that not only do we have This our session, but we continually get the questions in. So we really serve as that resource and about 400 different schools took us up with these types of supplies. So we're really happy to partner with schools in that initiative.

Unknown Speaker  14:16  
So there's some special things for the teachers as well.

Unknown Speaker  14:20  
Yeah, so obviously, you don't think about this, but it's a big issue. I think we've all come to realize this. It's hard to hear someone through a mask when they're talking. And a big part of talking is reading lips, right. So the shields allow the teachers to not have their face covered, not be muffled, but have that shield so people can clearly hear them and can clearly see lifts because keep in mind, most of your listeners who have grandchildren or children that are attending school, some are still virtual. So half can be virtual, which means not only do I have a hard time seeing here But not reading your lips as you're as you're teaching the class. So, shields, they have that they have FAQs, they have obviously hand sanitizer. But Susan, you would probably agree. We tend to see the children mostly be asymptomatic, but it's the teachers that will typically have the symptoms and they tend to be a little, obviously a lot older than the children that are attending schools.

Unknown Speaker  15:29  
Right, so they might have some pre existing conditions. Are you seeing one last thing about equipment, etc. in class and you know, physical? Are you seeing like the use of some sort of film or plexiglass where teachers are actually standing behind? Are you seeing any of those things in the classrooms?

Unknown Speaker  15:52  
But I can tell you in the cafeterias, they have distance, the food from the people going by because that shook me A child can go by and sneeze or cough for taking extra precaution. I have not seen it in the classroom. I do know where my daughter goes to high school there are, you know, as most people are listening to their hybrid vowel. So after two days, half go the other two days and everybody's being spaced out. I think the other thing I'd like Susan to talk about is when when you think about a classroom, what are the things that we're recommending to make sure that we get circulation going in the classroom because it's that stale air, I leaves the droplets available for people to catch, Susan.

Unknown Speaker  16:36  
Yeah, that's a and by the way, Highmark has been such a good partner in all of this. I think together, we're such a we're a strong team. But the key that I think is important number one, you space desks apart, so you have to, that's why this sort of hybrid model helps because you have less people in the building at any given time. And we'll talk About ventilation in a minute, but it's also taking your common spaces and repurposing them. So instead of having 30 kids in one classroom or 20 kids, you can use some of the general spaces that you had not used before, and space the kids out into different pods. So that's one thing people are doing. ventilation is a big issue. And it's a hard one for schools. You have schools that have no air conditioning, you know, you have some schools that have all the bells and whistles and others that don't. Obviously, if you can keep windows open, you're always better outside, always better outside than you are in a building because of the circulation. windows open doors open. The last thing you want to do is put a fan in a room with all the doors and windows close, you're just circulating, right viral particles. So there are h HVAC systems. The CDC has a very nice guideline online that we'd send some of the schools to About h HVAC systems, and what you should be thinking about with air conditioners, etc. So I won't go into details, but there are some guidelines there to help ventilation is important.

Unknown Speaker  18:10  
That's good. I'm making note of that on guidelines. So thank you. Thank you for that. So I'm Dr. manzi. Let's, let's talk about the things that parents can do to help the children in terms of staying healthy during play. That's right. I mean, yeah, all of us. So even students who are remote like they're just home right 100% of the time, how are they keeping themselves healthy? They're, you know, they're sitting there watching you know, essentially, you know, interacting with computer you know, that there has to be anxiety and mental health related issues. And just what about the general you know, wellness tips that you can share?

Unknown Speaker  18:53  
So, Boy, that's so important. You know, it's interesting is a part of our physician consulting for business. We have behaved Rural Health expertise. So our psychiatry psychology department, our integrative medicine group, integrative medicine is just using alternative strategies. So meditation, yoga, you know, those kinds of interventions, behavioral health, that has been one of the biggest requests we've gotten from the schools, believe it or not, and it's not for the kids. They're more resilient, right? It's their teachers and parents, because the anxiety often gender is generated there. And so we have put together programs where we can do remote anxiety management strategies for parents, we can do webcasts, we can help employees and teachers because the best thing you can do as a parent is get your stress level down because anything you feel Believe me gets transmitted. The other thing we recommend is a routine. You Even though you're home, even though it's virtual act like it's a school day, get up at the same time, you have your breakfast time you have your breaks, you have your snaps, you have your gym time, you know, as much as you can bring that normalcy and routine in the much better you're going to be. And when that school day is done, the school day is done. They get their break period, they do their homework. I know it's easier said than done, believe me, especially if you've got five kids or three kids that you're trying to do this with. I admire parents that are doing that, believe me, but but if they These are little tips, and again, we could provide more advice on that to customize to your needs.

Unknown Speaker  20:40  
Well, I mean, sports and and physical activity are, you know, critical part of education. Right, not just the ability to play and the teamwork and all the things that come out of that but actually, you know, the the release of energy and activity so what about sports and Schools.

Unknown Speaker  21:01  
So, obviously, you see some people making decisions to go forward and others, citing not a lot of that, again has to do with prevalence. And what's the baseline prevalence or frequency, right of positive tests in your, on your team in your area. And you have to keep track of that. It's very hard to do. Again, it's easier said than done. But those people on that team, when they sign on to that team, they're signing on to behaviors when they leave that field or that team, right? If they've, and that's a part of it. And the coaches have to be very strict with that. Because they cannot go out and be careless and bring things back to that team. If they can keep that team from doing foolish things outside. Then the risks go way down. Right. And there are things and a lot of these sports are outside. That's a plus. That is a plus. So there are ways of getting around. And if your kids can't play team sports, get them outside and have them walk or run or ride their bikes, those things are safe.

Unknown Speaker  22:09  
Okay, and I, I do understand that playing percussion instruments, as well as singing, yes, not recommended.

Unknown Speaker  22:18  
Not great, not great because, again this virus is is transmitted by droplets and droplets come from your mouth. And when you speak, you know these droplets. So if you can imagine blowing into an instrument, or we're all over the place, right, or singing, you know, you've got all these droplets. So those, if you were going to really cut back on anything those would be the things you would try, you would really want to do is try to avoid that. One other point I want to make is people talk about the eyes, because the virus can get into any mucous membrane, right. So the shield protects your eyes, which is one of the reasons we like the shield. But if not even your glasses may help, or people that wear goggles, you know, you'll see people wearing goggles on planes, etc. That's just an extra precaution that can help as well.

Unknown Speaker  23:13  
Okay, that's great. So I'm going to jump back to Jeff. And you know, you're receiving requests that are probably beyond your ability to fulfill. Is that right? Or am I just jumping there?

Unknown Speaker  23:26  
You know, it's interesting. It's a good question. Um, I think that yes or no. So I think that what we're finding is that people want that they want information more than anything. They don't really want us to tell them, how to run the school and all that. Now, we provided the supplies and so forth. But I think the best that we can do is be a resource to the communities that we serve. So in Pennsylvania, Delaware, in West Virginia, we're doing that it's not just for schools. Let's keep in mind, you know, we We season like 50,000 employees or so in those three states. So we have to practice the same guidelines. So if we're going to be going through this and we have access to the expertise, we try as best we can to share the information with the public. And what they can do the number one, the number one question right now from employers is how can I safely reopen? So again, we're we have a website that Jonathan had to record it, you can probably will get it for you can place a link here that that I think the number one thing is to be a resource. And as we get information, we'll continue to share it with employers. That's what people are really looking for is, you know, I don't know what to believe when I listen to the media when I read articles. You know, we're just going to share what we're doing given the resources that we have

Unknown Speaker  24:55  
access to,

Unknown Speaker  24:57  
but in terms of fulfillment of some of the things That you're actually providing. So in terms of the supply chain, are there any ways that actually the members of the tech community and our membership can be additive to your efforts?

Unknown Speaker  25:12  
on that out there that maybe? Yeah,

Unknown Speaker  25:15  
I certainly think so I think and cheering him information, that could probably be the most helpful. At this point in time, we've been able to successfully fulfill supplies and so forth. And by the way, we do that for for our clients. So we're not setting up shop at the convention center or anything like that for the community. It's mainly for clients. But I think where you could help is, is sharing information and passing on the information that we have to your your clients and their clients and so forth. Right. It's because things change pretty quickly. I mean, the biggest thing right now is vaccine. Right? Right. How do you how do you know who to believe are we gonna help Something that's been a little bit political politicized. There's going to be in six months, nine months, how safe is it going to be? I think, Susan, the last poll I saw was that 40% of the people would even consider taking the vaccine, then you need it twice. So I think I think that's gonna be the latest, the latest and greatest information that we share. So if you can be a conduit to help share that, that'd be great.

Unknown Speaker  26:27  
All right. I agree with that. And if I can just add one thing, because I agree. I think what's been tough is there's been a lot of information flooding.

Unknown Speaker  26:38  

Unknown Speaker  26:41  
not that there's a lot of information, it's somebody that can interpret it for you, right, decipher it, put the put a scientific lens on it and give you something that's actionable. That's the hard part. Because you get all this conflicting information hitting you some of its hype, some of its real, some of its we're looking So that that if we can come together as a community in Pittsburgh, and by the way, Pittsburgh has done really well, for COVID. And they get shout outs all the time. But if we can come together as a community Hi, Mark H and, and be that conduit to sift out the nonsense and give you what is real and at least the best evidence possible, and something you can act on. That's a real value.

Unknown Speaker  27:25  
And so, as we wrap up, and before I thank you for the time and the information that you've shared. Dr. Nancy, what's your prediction? What do you think? Over the next we just finished six months, right? We're almost next week or this week, it'll be six months, two full seasons.

Unknown Speaker  27:45  
What do you predict?

Unknown Speaker  27:47  
Yeah, like, my advice is don't let your guard down because there's a fatigue, right that's going on this fatigue like, Hey, we kind of got out of this pretty well. Let's let our guard down a little bit, let's kind of go out and do our thing. And I say, do not do that. Because the virus is still here, there is no vaccine. And by the way, we're coming into flu season, right? That's when viruses really take off. You've got flu out there, you've got COVID. So please keep up all the things that you're doing. I know it seems like it's forever. But to me, this is going to be an 18 month to two year endeavor. And, or until a really good vaccine is available. So brace yourselves, we can get through it, but the the be very vigilant.

Unknown Speaker  28:35  
So when you say vigilant, and when you say brace yourself, and I think you're absolutely right about COVID fatigue. What does that mean that we should limit our travel that we should continue to be behaving the way that we should have been and continue going in Pittsburgh for the last six months?

Unknown Speaker  28:54  
Well, you know, that's a it's a great question what I could give you my opinion and then I could give you What the what the general messaging has been. Because as you know, airlines have ramped up, there's a lot more people traveling, my feeling is travel carefully, right? If you don't have to get on a plane and travel, if you don't have to put yourself in that position, don't do it. Right. It's a little sacrifice to be made for somebody you might expose to a virus that could kill them. And we're not talking minor little cold for some very, you know, vulnerable people. So I would say limit your travel. If you do have to travel, you've got to do it with your masks. Your hand sanitizers are wiping down the seats around you. Take you know what I say nonstop flights if you have to anything you can do to be smart.

Unknown Speaker  29:50  
Okay, do you think and then one last thing for you? Dr. manzi? Do you think that with these good hygiene practices that we've been doing over The last six months. I mean, I don't know about the people who are listening. But I'm like a really good hand washer now. And I, you know, I'm pretty compulsive about it where I could tell you in all my years before, I probably wasn't as great. Do you think that will help offset the flu season?

Unknown Speaker  30:20  
Absolutely. You know, there's, I always say there's good things that come out of these crises, right. The one is that maybe more people will get their flu vaccine, maybe this year. The second is that practice alone, being being aware of people around you who's coughing on you, how are you washing your hands, you may see flu numbers go way down, which would be terrific. On top of all this, so there'll be good that comes of it for sure.

Unknown Speaker  30:49  
So thank you both. Jeff. Is there anything that you want to wrap up and say before we close out,

Unknown Speaker  30:54  
just wanted to say from a business perspective, I think, to your point on hand washing I think that for for all of us, including Highmark, I think here's an opportunity that forced us to adapt, and thinking about how we conduct business. And I think we're gonna be stronger as a nation, all companies, all people, after we've been through and it's been, it's gonna be a tough ride, but the adaptation that we have, and that we have all from will be will be a better part will be better companies, better people and so forth. So, not everything is negative. I think this is that's definitely a silver lining from a business standpoint as we move forward.

Unknown Speaker  31:36  
So, thank you. So Susan, there's one last question Carol fan. She asked about will all these clean cleaning measures obsessive hand washing, read superbugs or is that not a real concern?

Unknown Speaker  31:49  
No. Antibiotics breed superbugs. I viac. This handout can only help you

Unknown Speaker  31:57  
Okay, so how to hand washing power to a high mark. Thank you for the Jeff. Thank you, Susan Manzi. Thank you, Jonathan for being here. And thank you, everyone. Tomorrow we have Near Earth autonomy. And they're going to be the founders are joining us and you really won't want to miss it. They've been making some news lately. And we're pretty excited to have them join and talk about the work that they're doing in autonomy. So, thanks again to everyone. Have a great day, wash your hands. Stay safe. And thank you, Jeff. And Dr. manzi. Thank you all. Bye bye.

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