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December 13, 2021 29 mins

Ryan Gorman hosts an iHeartRadio nationwide special featuring NBC News Radio Correspondent Rory O’Neill’s conversation with Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health. Plus, Ryan talks to Arianna Taboada, author of The Expecting Entrepreneur.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to I Heart Radio Communities, a public affair special
focusing on the biggest issues impacting you this week. Here's
Ryan Gorman. Thanks for joining us here on I Her
Radio Communities. I'm Ryan Gorman, and we have some really
important conversations line up for you coming up in a moment.
We'll check in with Dr Francis Collins, director of the
National Institutes of Health. He's gonna have the latest info

for us on the state of the pandemic, including what
we know about the new amicron variant. Then I'll talk
to Ariana Taba Wada, author of The Expecting Entrepreneurs. She's
gonna offer up some really great advice for navigating pregnancy
and professional responsibilities. Right now, to get things started, let
me turn it over to my colleague Rory O'Neill, who's

with Dr Francis Collins again, director of the National Institutes
of Health. Dr Francis Collins, the director of the National
Institutes of Health. The a macron variant of COVID has
really taken up all the headlines in the past week
or two, but here in the US the delta variant
is still a major problem. Only a hundred thousand new

cases diagnosed every day. A thousand people in the US
still dying from COVID every day. That's right. I'm glad
you're pointing this out. Obviously, we are concerned about this
new variant, which is mostly in South Africa but has
also arrived in the US in very small numbers, maybe
a few dozen cases. But meanwhile, Delta continues to be

having a very hard hit on our country, with a
hundred thousand cases a day actually going up a little
bit now since Thanksgiving, and about a thousand people dying
every day, almost all of them from Delta. So yeah,
we need to look and see what's happening with the
new threat, But the current threat is still the one
that we probably should be paying most attention to, because

there are things we can do to reduce the impact
and to keep ourselves safe. Dr Collins, I want to
talk more about boosters in a moment, but you mentioned
the spike in cases after that Thanksgiving holiday travel period.
Do you think we'll see a similar spike after travel
during New Years in Christmas? We always worry that at

times of holidays, and I'm not sure whether the travel
is as big an effect as just people getting together
in indoor groupings in cold weather because that's where an
awful lot of viral transmission happens, and certainly we're facing
a season where there's going to be a fair amount
of that. I do hope people will be thoughtful about

wearing masks when they're indoors with other folks, because that's
often one of the opportunities that delta uses to transmit
into various people. And we still have lots of people
who are vulnerable, you know. On the plus side, since
a macron surface, we've seen a surge in the number
of people going out getting vaccinated or at least getting

their booster shots, So that's something positive coming out of
this recent discovery of the amcron variant that is encouraging.
And of course, before amicron came along, we'd already made
this commendation that all individuals eighteen and older should get
the boosters if they're six months or more away from

an m R and a vaccine, that being fiser and MADERNA,
or just two months away from J and J, because
the data was very compelling that not just to sort
of have some resistance against omicron if it turns out
to be a big deal. But right now, to have
resistance against delta. We know the vaccines have worked pretty well,
but they wane over time. The booster just knocks your

immune system into high gear, gets you ready to face
that virus if it happens to float by. And everybody
listening to this who has not yet got that booster
and who is currently eligible, really ought to do so.
And it's a great way to prepare yourself. So what
maybe increase risk At the time of the holidays with
people getting together, it was nice to see the number

of shots going into arms going up. Let's keep it up,
America because so far only about one out of four
the who are eligible for boosters have actually gotten those
and this would be a great time to knock that
one up into high gear. Now, dry if you could
get a little bit technical, not too technical, but if
you could explain a little bit, how if I get

a booster that's not specifically for the omicron variant of COVID,
how does that booster help protect me from a macron
or doesn't That's a great question. Worry, Uh, we don't
entirely know the answer. Will have more data on that
in another week or two, but we do know with
all of the other variants, that the booster not only

increases the quantity of antibodies, but also their quality. That
they are really much broader in their ability to bind
two variants than the original vaccine might have provided. So
all kinds of reasons to do this to protect yourself,
and that's really good news in fact, that the booster
has that property now with a Macron because it is

a variant that has so many changes, more than fifty
of them compared to the original Wuhan virus, there is
some concern that it is distant enough from the original
virus that even with a booster, you might not get
the kind of protection you'd like. We'll have to wait
and see what that looks like. But based on what
we've seen with all the other variants, the boosters should

be really valuable. So go and get one now. Doctor.
I've heard some talk of maybe the development of an
Amcron specific booster. I've had my two shots, my booster
schedule for next week. Do I have to wait for
that a macron booster or should I just go with
what's already scheduled? And does that mean that I'm going
to have shot number four? I hope we don't need

any shots number four. But we've got to be um,
you know, light on our feet. This virus keeps throwing
curveballs at us. No, do not wait to get your
booster now. There's very good evidence that it will protect
against a macron an, extremely good evidence it will protect
you against delta, which is right now the big threats.
So never mind omicron, get your booster now. If it

turns out, and again I think most experts would say
this probably isn't going to happen. But if it does
turn out that Omicron is so different that even the
booster doesn't give you adequate protection, then it will be
necessary to redesign the vaccine to be omicron specific. But
that will take at least three or four months. You
don't want to wait three or four months, So go

get your booster. I'm glad you're getting years next week.
Especially in the winter months when more people are gathered
together indoors, that's when we see that spike in cases
in the northern part of the US. Exactly, it's just
like what you might have predicted about what a respiratory
virus does in colder weather. When people are indoors gathering together,
you can look across the map of where delta is

right now, it's right across the northern part of the
country in Minnesota and Michigan and across into New England.
And this is not a good time to be at
risk in that situation. But we're talking about boosters. Obviously,
maybe even more important those roughly sixty million people who
haven't gotten their first vaccination. It would be time to say,

let's do this. We have enough data now by people,
um two million of them who have gotten vaccinated doing
extremely well with that, with the data showing that this
is safe and effective that if you've been on the fence,
it's time to hop off the fence and uh, you
can go to vaccines dot gov and find a place
it's ready to help you. Um that's nearby. Everybody ought

to do this. It's free. We're talking with Dr Francis Collins,
the director of the National Institutes of Health, and you
know you mentioned that kids are back in school and
perhaps many are now becoming eligible for their vaccines. Even
some of the oldest students I guess are eligible to
get a boosters shot, or at least that that date
may be coming up. Yeah, not yet. Again, that decision

hasn't yet been made. Right now, it's eighteen and over.
It sounds like it's likely that pretty soon sixteen and
seventeen year old to may get a recommendation for a booster.
But that hasn't happened quite yet. But for kids, and
that means anybody who's already got an approved vaccine, and
that's any child that's five years or older. If this

hasn't yet been possible for that kid to get vaccinated,
this would be a really good time to do it,
to get that immunity going before the holidays kick in fully. Uh.
And I would hope that parents who have been a
little on the fence about this would also look and
see that immunization of kids is going extremely well. And
this is something I think you want for your child.

It's safe, it's effective. The best way to be sure
if he can have lots of our kids I mean,
is that schools don't run into outbreaks. You know, you've
already used the phrase on the fence a few times
when talking about the vaccine. I'm just wondering if that's
something that ever factored into your mind during your career
in public health that uh, In response to a public

health emergency like this one, and uh, in preparing for it,
did you ever imagine that people would be on the
fence about what has been a very effective and safe vaccine. Yeah.
I knew that Americans would want to see evidence before
they rolled up their sleeves and accepted a vaccine. But

I thought the evidence would be compelling if it If
it was, and people would react accordingly. And and yeah, really,
the evidence for safety and efficacy of the vaccines right
now is astoundingly good. What I hadn't counted on was
all the misinformation that's circulating and continues to that confuses

people and makes them fearful, much of it spread by
social media. And I think a lot of people have
had trouble sorting out, well, who do I trust here?
Maybe the government sounds like they're trying to do something
that I'm not comfortable with, and the companies are all
just trying to make money. So I'm going to read
this Facebook post that says there's something about those vaccines

that is bad for you, and I'm gonna hold back
just what appeal to people who have been in that space.
I totally sympathize. Maybe they need to be listened to
instead of lectured too. But there is so much information
now that is scientifically validated to say if you're not vaccinated,
you are significant risk from delta. We're still seeing a

thousand people dying every day, and the vast majority of
those are unvaccinated people whose lives could have been saved.
It's that serious. So hoping that some people at least
are able to hit the reset button now and look
back at the evidence and realize that a lot of
that scary information that kept people from taking advantage of

vaccines was simply not true. You already announced that you'll
be stepping down at the end of the year after
serving as director of the NIH under three different presidents. Now,
how do you grade yourself really over the path US
two years, not just your response to COVID, but really
our whole public health systems response to COVID nineteen. Well,

I would say that what NIH does, which is to
support medical research, has done amazing things in these past
two years. And I'm not giving my self credit for that.
I'm saying the scientific community just rose to this challenge
in astounding and unprecedented ways to be able to get
vaccines designed, developed, tested, in rigorous trials and approved in

eleven months, is about five times faster than has ever
happened in the history of the planet. And that was
the credits to the scientific community that was ready for
this and rolled up their sleeves and worked twenty seven
to make it happen. Likewise, with the way in which
therapy therapies were tested, some got to proved, like monoch
call antibodies, Others were shown not to work, and it

was good to know that too, like hydroxy corquine which
really has no benefit. And a lot of work also
done in the testing technology why you can now get
tests on your pharmacy shelves you can take home. That
was an IH effort. So I'm incredibly proud of what
the scientific community did, but it hasn't translated into the
kind of outcome across the country that I had hoped for.

We just talked about part of that, which is the misinformation,
but also our public health system was very stressed and
stretched and kind of became clear that we under investigate,
under invested in c d C and in state health
departments over many years, and now they're suddenly asked to
step in to the worst pandemic in more than a century,

and it's really hard to do so. On on on top
of that, many of them are being attacked for political
reasons or by people with various agendas, so that trying
to do the right thing as public servants is suddenly
seen by some people as unacceptable. That's been heartbreaking to watch.
So we've got a lot of work to do here
to get ourselves back in a better place. You know,

Dr Collins, your words can move markets. So I'm just
wondering if that comes into play and some of the
decisions are that are being made. You know, we got
word of a macron and suddenly the markets were dropping
hundreds thousands of points. Even uh, we're getting word now
that Google and Ford are postponing their return to the office.
You know, that's even before we really know anything about

Omicron definitively. So I'm just wondering how much you take
the business world into into account when you are talking
about COVID and its developments. Well, business responds to this pandemic,
and I understand why they need to do so, I
would say, without a Macron, looking at what Delta is
currently doing, Certainly businesses or in a situation about worrying

about whether it's time to bring everybody back. I celebrate
the businesses that have really taken matters into their own hands,
even though that may not be popular, that has included
mandates for vaccines or for regular testing for their employees. Frankly,
that's how we're going to get past this. We're not
going to get past this pandemic if something like sixty

million people are completely unimmunized and unprepared for whatever the
next variant is, and businesses have a chance to do
something about that, both for their own self interest because
they want their employees to be healthy and not sick,
and they want to be able to do their company's business.
And I'm glad to see a lot of them are

taking those steps to try to put um the the
responsibility on all the people that work for them to
take care of themselves in the presence of this pandemic
and not be the ones to spread the virus to
others around them. Now, DR one more question about the
A Macron variant. We've seen early reports that maybe the
symptoms are less severe and it's more easily transmitted to

other people. Those are early reports. We don't have the
full data on this yet, But does that mean that
perhaps a macron and the delta variant could become endemic
rather than pandemic and not require such an overwhelming response
by public health. It's an interesting question, ory. I mean again,
as you said, this day is very early. It does

look like this virus is spreading quite rapidly in South Africa,
so it must be pretty darn contagious. Is it in
fact milder? That's too early to say. If that turned
out to be the case, you could say this is
kind of evolving to be more like a less serious
respiratory virus, more like the common cold, instead of a

terrible coronavirus that's killed almost eight hundred thousand people in
the United States. So if if ultimately a macron is
of that sort, will it in some way kind of
outcompete the other more dangerous versions of saris kobe too.
That's all very hypothetical, but that might be a possible

pathway towards an endemic outcome instead of a pandemic outcome.
But that's all a lot of handwaving until we have
more data. Dr Francis Collins, the retiring director of the
National Institutes of Health, thank you very much for your
time and for your service as well. Thank you your
most kind It's been a total privilege. Being a public
servant has just been the most amazing experience to be

able to spend my time trying to figure out how
to put science to the task here that we need
to help people who are suffering from terrible diseases. That's
what n H does. I love the place, I've loved
the job, and I'm going to be moving back into
my lab to see what i can do in that
space to keep that mission going again. That was my
colleague Rory O'Neil with Dr Francis Collins, director of the

National Institutes of Health. I'm Ryan Gorman here on I
Hear Radio Communities and now let's turn to Ariana tabawaa
author of The Expecting Entrepreneur, to talk about navigating pregnancy
and professional responsibilities, especially for business owners. Arianna, thanks so
much for taking a few minutes to come on the show.
And first of all, let's start with your background and
how you ended up writing this book on this topic. Sara,

thanks for asking, Ryan, Well, I'm a public health social
worker by training, so you could say I've I've been
involved in in these types of issues. Uh in my
entire professional career, and when I became a self employed entrepreneur,
it was right at the time where I was also
starting my my own parenting journey, and so it all

kind of the personal and professional converged. And so in
about two thousand and fifteen, I started working with small
business owners and I kept hearing the same thing over
and over again that there was this major pain point
around planning for parental lease, and so I shifted my
own business model to explicitly working on that and eventually
wrote a book to be able to to share those

resources beyond the folks I was able to work with
in a one on one setting, What are some of
the more unique issues that tend to come up among
those who are self employed business owners, entrepreneurs, that class
of professional when it comes to parent to leave and
planning a family. Great question, So all a'll startups because

the overarching context of the reality that in the US,
you know you've been paying attention to the news, paid
leave is one of the major things on the policy agenda,
and the reality is that we do not have a
national pay these policy, So so many people in this
country are struggling to figure out how to how to
make this period of life work, so to speak. And

entrepreneurs are one of those pockets with people who because
there there's no national policy, because entrepreneurs have a hard
time accessing the state level programs and policies that exist,
and because there is no infrastructure in the way that
some corporate or even nonprofit employers may have for their
employees going on parental leaves. It's really a hard situation

of trying to figure it out without any guidelines or
roadmap or infrastructure to support that. So it's kind of
every every person for themselves, which is a challenging place
to um to start when you are going through a
major life transition, and I'm sure for self and ployed
business owners in particular, especially small business owners, where there

isn't a lot of help or room to maneuver, the
challenge can become really difficult. And that really impacts a
time of your life when it's supposed to be happy
and celebratory and exciting. You've got this kind of hanging
over all of that. Yeah, I mean, the emotional whip

lash we're talking about comes to mind. It's the excitement,
the happy and then the quite little of the fear,
the anxiety about if you are also in charge of
sustaining your family's income, how how do you balance those
two things. I'm joined right now by the author of
The Expecting entrepreneur ariana Taba Wada Uh, And let me

ask you about your personal journey when you were going
through this. Talk a little bit about some of the
challenges that you faced and how you navigated that period
of your life. Sure, so, like many self employed folks,
I did not have any policy that I could turn to.
So I had to craft my own parental leaves plan.

Given given that my background is is in maternal health research.
Luckily I had some resources to draw fruns. But even
then I was in the really hard position of having
to self fund my leaves and not really being prepared
for for uh, what recovering from birth is like. And
so I actually, you know, I showed up back back

in my uh, back in my work chair, not in
the greatest shape. I will I will leave it. I
was play of the details. But I think if anyone
who has recently had a baby and and those were
post part of recovery, is like you, you know some
of the things I'm talking about. And from there, once
you return to work. How long did it take for
you to get back to where you were feeling like

things were normal again? Uh? I feel like there's there's
one answer, which is like after about a year, I
felt like I had my feet on solid Ground's gonna say,
did you ever get back there? Not so much? And
then the you know, part two of that answer is
the reality is that there are so many changes and

developmental shifts, both in infancy as well as in kause
the parenthood journey that's running on that parallel track along
with your kids, changes and changes in sleeps and eating
and developmental milestones, that it becomes this ever ever changing
that we're the example of, you know, the only change

of constant, the only constant is changed. It kind of
brings through in that situation. And you mentioned in your
writing and this is on your website to everyone can
find you at Ariana Tabawada dot com that when you're
going through a pregnancy, there are moments where you might
wake up and you're able to do your job like

you normally would be able to do it, and there
are other days where, and this is very unexpected, things
are just different. You're not able to execute your plan
the way you'd want to, or there's a little brain
fog going on, or other issues that you're dealing with.
So it's it's a very unpredictable phase, which is tough

when you're running a business, it is. And so the
thing I always like to underscore is that, right, this
is a relatively short amount of time in the longer
arc of your life and in your business trajectory, and
so to have some great with yourself in those moments
where it might feel like there's a few days in
a row where you're just really not as productive as

you would like to be, and to to know that
giving yourself the time and space to kind of meet
your human needs as well as your professional needs will
really go a long way in terms of being able
to to yield over the what is hopefully a long
term business trajectory. I'm joined by author of The Expecting
entrepreneur Ariana Taba Wada. How would better plans for parental leave,

whether it be for self employed people or others, how
would that potentially impact health equity? And why do you
think this is say particularly important for women and also
for people of color. Yeah, so you're getting to the
good stuff. I've a heard smile on my face because
this is one of the things I most love talking about,

because paid leave policies are one of these unique opportunities
we have to actually impact two generations at one time.
So we have an abundance of research on on the
benefits of parental leaves and one of the things we
can see really clearly is that it impacts a parent
or birthing person's health and economic prosperity over the long term,

and it impacts infant health, infant development, childhood outcomes, and
health until you're able to get a two for one
if you will, in having a paid parental leaves policy,
Matt is really exciting, and in in a country where
you know where no one has access to a paid
peronalities policy, but the folks hardest hit tend to be

women and communities of color, small business owners. Uh that
that can make a huge difference in terms of not
of secreasing disparities in health and economic outcomes, but in
providing folks with an infrastructure that that we all wish
we had, as we all deserve, in such a huge
life milestone. In addition to being author of this book,

you're also senior researcher at Hope Lab, which is a
social impact lab that focuses on developing health and emotional
well being interventions for adolescents, young adults, even those who
are are pregnant or parenting. And from some of the
research that you've seen and conducted, how does that relate
and what does that research tell you about this issue

in particular pregnancy and professional responsibilities? Right? Well, I think
innovation and work and innovation has been a real privilege,
particularly coming from a health background, because you know, folks
who are developing health infrastructure were often not the ones
who are saying, you know, how can we just totally
think outside the box. But for something like Parentally's, thinking

outside the box is actually really useful, and so beginning
to see the innovation space for this particular topic is
really right. And there are a lot of creative ways
that people, in the absence of policy have had to
figure out how to do it. And when we can
uplift those stories and those solutions, that we can begin

to think of a variety of different ways that people
can solve for this across different industries, across different family structures,
and it's exciting to see that momentum and be able
to build opposite, So what support systems are currently in
place or what would a system that should be put
in place be for those who are independently employed who

are planning for parent to leave. Sure, So there are
three things that come to mind, finances, operations, and health
and social support. So the first, uh, finances. You know,
entrepreneurs should do some of the legwork to figure out
if any if they live in a state where there's
a program available to them. So states have in some

cases picked up the mantle. There are nine places in
the US where states have implemented these policies of California, Connecticut, Colorado, Massachusetts,
New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, the state of
Washington and DC. And so seeing if you can access
any of those benefits would be a place to start.
The second, operations is really getting your operations manu in order,

making sure that the things we do day to day
in your business that there is a process in a
system in place so that while you are out, someone
can easily have have it handed off to them and
take care of it for you, so that things don't
kind of stop in your tracks while you are gone.
And the last one is the health and social support piece,
which is really thinking about entrepreneurs are often one of

the biggest assets in our business and making sure that
you have the health support you need so that you
can return to your business and good health and be
able to continue contributing in the way that you have.
For those who have the resources to take parent to
leave and not have to worry about these kinds of issues,
how does that change their experience with this phase of

their life? Great question. So I think that if you
have experienced a paid parent to leave, you know what
a game changer it is. You know what it's what
it is like to not have to worry about choosing
between going back to work to either family or choosing
to spend more time with your family, but not having
financial resources to do that. You you know what it's

like to be able to care for some of those
health needs. But there's physical or mental health, and so
I think the biggest thing that you know, the average
person can do is to serve as an advocate for
what a difference those programs and policies can be. Uh
And right now there's a lot going on with the
policy currently being funded, and so if you feel inspired

to email your representative and add your voice to the
chorus of folks who are at advocating for for paid
parental leaves. That is one great place to start. Do
you think not having that parental leave safety net potentially
draws people, including entrepreneurs small business owners away from starting
a family, maybe not forever, but perhaps not on the

timeline they like if they didn't have to worry about
something like that. Absolutely so. Right now, the we know
that the highest growing, the most rapidly growing populations starting
businesses are actually black and Latino women, and we also
know that those are some of the very same group
who are most affected by these by the lack of
paid leave policies. And so if we think about what

we can do to stimulate economic innovation and business creation
and the success the financial success of businesses um particularly
small businesses, we know that a paid least policy is
actually a very strategic news on that front as well.
All right, Arianna table Watta, author of The Expecting Entrepreneur.

You can find out more and check the book out
at the Expecting Entrepreneur dot com. Arianna, thanks so much
for coming on the show. We really appreciate it. Thanks
for having me. Ryan it's been great, all right, and
that's going to do it for this edition of Radio Communities.
As we wrap things up, want offer a big thanks
to all of our guests and of course to all
of you for listening. I'm Ryan Gorman. Will be back,
same time, same place, next weekend. Stay safe,
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