W. Ian Lipkin, MD, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, is developing the health protocols for the August 17-20 Democratic National Convention, which will combine a scaled-back convention in Milwaukee and remote programming, in consideration of COVID-19 risks.
In June, the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) announced that state delegations will conduct their official convention business remotely, including casting their votes on the presidential nomination.
Since May, Lipkin and Larry Brilliant, a former professor of epidemiology known for his work on the eradication of smallpox, have worked with the DNCC and local, state, and federal public health officials to develop methods to ensure the health and safety of the candidate, convention staff, attendees, and the people of Wisconsin. These include risk modeling, daily viral testing, facility modifications, personal protective equipment, and other protocols for mitigating the potential for virus transmission.
One of the world's foremost experts on pathogen discovery and pandemic prevention, Lipkin assisted the WHO and the Peoples Republic of China during the 2003 SARS outbreak and advised the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the height of the MERS outbreak. In January, he traveled to China in early weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak to assess the situation, and in the months since has led the development of sophisticated diagnostics, treatments, and public education campaigns, including a social media campaign from the screenwriter, director, and cast of the 2011 movie Contagion. He is also launching a new initiative called the Global Infectious Disease Epidemiology Network (GIDEoN) to prevent the next COVID-19.
"This is one of most important elections of our lifetimes," says Lipkin. "It's imperative that candidates and their political parties have an opportunity to make the case for how they are prepared to lead. We are committed to ensuring that this can be safely achieved in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic."