The Pope, a Surgeon General and an 11-Year-Old
Rituals are being broken as Andy notes this is the time of year when we’re normally physically connected to our families and neighbors. So he calls his old Obama colleague former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy who spent his time in the Administration focusing on the epidemic of loneliness. Andy freely admits he once didn’t understand Vivek’s message but now seeks his advice for a world of forced isolation. Entrepreneur and friend Trevor Price talks about an initiative to help underserved communities, but Andy also wants to get some advice from his 11-year-old daughter Catie.
- https://www.amazon.com/Together-Connection-Performance-Greater-Happiness/dp/0062913298 (Vivek’s Book)
[00:01] Pope Francis’ translator: Today, my thoughts turn in the first place to the many who have been directly affected by the Coronavirus. The sick, those who have died, and family members who mourn the loss of their loved ones, to whom in some cases they were unable even to bid a final farewell.
[00:34] Andy Slavitt: Hi, it’s Andy Slavitt. I’m here with my son, Zach. Welcome to In the Bubble. So America is now going through our April rituals. I think we have a podcast today that will stand the test of time. But as we record, we’re sitting here in April and I’m reminded about how much our rituals are about connection. Passover, the big table, the closeness, the warmth, Easter, piling into church with your family, hiding and finding Easter eggs, big family dinners, the beginning of Ramadan, the most meaningful time of year, the fasting and the prayer. And spring break. For many of us with kids at home or have kids, it’s a time of togetherness and family. Maybe a little bit of travel. Whatever those rituals are, they’ve been broken right in front of us.
[01:24] Andy Slavitt: And when you break rituals that are all about togetherness, we’re also breaking our support system. So the voice you heard at the beginning of this episode, you may recognize as the pope in a translation of his message. Popes often have messages of unity. I assume. I probably haven’t paid great attention. And usually he delivers the message to 70,000 people crammed into St. Peter’s Square. It’s an image we’re all familiar with. The pope’s words struck me this year in the face of the challenges we’re facing. There’s obviously a number of challenging things about Coronavirus. But one of the cruelest is our social support structure isn’t there for us. Or there for us physically. You know, last night I attended a memorial on Zoom. It was the third funeral in the last month that I wasn’t able to attend. The family went through the ceremony. Thirteen people were all that were allowed. There were still hugging, they told me, and no comforting. But they did say having hundreds and hundreds of people from across the country dialed in was incredibly meaningful. And I’m hoping that people are finding ways to be there for each other.
[02:40] Andy Slavitt: At least in my life, I’m feeling that. And if you live alone, or if you know someone who does, or even if you don’t live alone but you’re going through a lonely time, it’s really important that we do everything we can to combat the sense of isolation. We are not isolated. We are going through this together. And at the risk of sounding like some new-age guru, I will say that this is one of the most important things that we can control, of all the things we can’t control. In fact, the person that I want to talk to in a few minutes, our guest, was the 19th and most recent U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy. And when I talked to him, you’re going to find that unlike expecting a conversation that’s very clinical about medical stuff, we’re going to be coming back again and again to this topic of connectivity. Which is really where Vivek made his bones. Before we get there, I want to see if Zack has any new facts for us.
[03:41] Zach Slavitt: Yeah, this is kind of a more positive fact. It’s more on the side of the environment improving because of less human interaction with it due to people staying home. And that’s the bear population in Yosemite has quadrupled and global warming has also shown some signs of improvement in Asia.
[04:00] Andy Slavitt: So did you know that mom and I got engaged in Yosemite?
[04:05] Zach Slavitt: I did not.
[04:06] Andy Slavitt: We did. And we actually saw some bears. So that’s a fact that makes me happy because it reminds me of when your mom and I got engaged. Thanks, buddy. All right, now we have the 19th U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, who is also a friend of mine. We served together in the Obama administration, and you’ll probably hear some of the experiences we had together as we talk. Welcome to In the Bubble, Vivek.
[04:38] Vivek Murthy: Thanks so much, Andy. Glad to be on with you.
[04:40] Andy Slavitt: It’s great to talk to you again. We’re going to talk about all kinds of things, including — I promised the listeners we’re going to talk a little bit about connection. We’re also going to talk about the epidemic in general, as the surgeon general. But I want to start. You were married a few years ago. You’ve got a couple little kids. What’s that like? And how are you managing that during this pandemic?
[05:02] Vivek Murthy: Our family, like so many other families, is just trying to make some sense and some order out of the total chaos that we find ourselves in. And I’d be lying to you if I told you that I had it all figured out. Every day feels like, you know, it starts off with us getting our kids up, and chasing them around the house to get their teeth brushed, and trying to somehow catch up with the news and work in between. And get meals prepped and make sure they’re learning on whatever the tool of the day is. It’s been tough. I think one thing that’s made it a little bit easier for us, than it perhaps otherwise would have been, is that we are hunkered down right now in Miami, Florida, with my parents and my sister and brother-in-law. This is where I grew up. So this is home. And it’s so much better to be here with at least some support throughout these chaotic times than being all alone, you know, back in Washington, D.C., which is where we usually live. So it’s a work in progress here, day by day we try to get a little bit better at figuring out how to make things work. But we’ve got a long way to go.
[06:03] Andy Slavitt: Do your kids know more or less what’s going on? What do you think they understand?
[06:07] Yeah. So are our son is three and our daughter is two. So they don’t understand a lot about what’s happening, but they do know a couple of things have happened. Number one, they know that we can’t go back home for a little while. They don’t seem to be bothered by that because I think they like their grandparents better than they certainly like me. They certainly know the term Covid-19 because they’ve heard us say it many times. And my son actually likes to watch flights on Flight Tracker, on the app, and he’s noticed that there are far fewer flights. And he’s asked us why. We’ve been explained to him that there’s this virus and that because of the virus there aren’t as many planes in the air anymore. So they have a sense that things aren’t normal, even though they don’t know all the details.
[06:48] Andy Slavitt: It’ll be interesting to see how they remember this time. So maybe just tell folks, what does the surgeon general do? What is the surgeon general responsible for?
[06:58] Vivek Murthyv: Well, it’s a good question. One is a public-facing role where the surgeon general is charged with ensuring that the public has the best possible information to make good decisions for their own health and the health of their families. And in that vein, surgeons general have published scientific reports called Surgeon General Reports over the years. They’ve launched public education campaigns. They’ve spent a lot of time interfacing directly with the public in town halls and in speeches and other venues. But then there’s the other responsibility, which is lesser known, which is to oversee one of the seven uniformed services in the U.S. government, which is the United States Public Health Service Commission Corps. This is a group of 6,600 officers, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists and many others who have dedicated themselves to improving health in the country. And they do so through a variety of means in the offices throughout the federal government. But they also respond during times of emergency. During 9/11, hurricanes, tornadoes, even during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. And we send them in teams to help stand up basic health care infrastructure to provide for critical public health needs. And in that sense, they are one of the best kept secrets in the U.S. government, but also an indispensable force for public health.
[08:14] Andy Slavitt: Got it. I have a confession to make, OK? When I first met you, my impression of Surgeon General is based on those that I’d either seen on TV when I was a kid or had the opportunity to meet — this big, authoritative voice educating the public about the dangers of smoking or really significant medical issues. And when I first met you, you were talking about things like social isolation, how people live in their communities, and how well they interacted with people and happiness. And I’ll be honest with you, I never told you this at the time, but I remember thinking, is that stuff even related to health or healthcare? Why do we have a surgeon general focused on something that’s so abstract and kind of mushy? Tell us how all that stuff really connects to health.
[09:03] Vivek Murthy: Well, it’s the right question, Andy, because most people, when they think about issues like loneliness, or when they think about depression, or when they think about just our fulfillment and happiness in life, they think about this whole subjective realm of feelings, which we should be able to figure out on our own, which is not really related to real health problems that we’re dealing with in the healthcare system. But it turns out that two things are true. One is that issues related to our mental and emotional well-being are a source of concern for millions and millions of people in America, particularly parents who are worried about their children. But second, it turns out that these are also intimately connected with our physical health. And there’s no place that I saw that more clearly than with the issue of loneliness and social isolation. This is not an issue, Andy, that I thought I would focus on when I was in office. That was not what I testified to the Senate as being on my priority list when I was going through confirmation. But it is what I was educated about by people I met all around the country shortly after it began my tenure as surgeon general. People who would tell me about their stories of addiction and depression and anxiety. Would talk about the violence in their communities. Would worry about their children and the impact technology was having on them. And behind so many of those stories, Andy, were these deeper threads of loneliness. And people wouldn’t say, you know, “hi, my name’s Andy. I’m struggling with loneliness.” But you would say things like, “I’ve got to deal with all of these crushing challenges on my own. I feel like if I disappear tomorrow, it wouldn’t make a difference to anyone. I feel like I’m completely invisible.” And time after time hearing that made me realize that no one issues like loneliness were far more common than I thought. And as I delved into the science around them, I also realized that there is a growing body of science that tells us that there are strong associations between loneliness and our risk of heart disease and dementia and depression and anxiety and even longevity. So, you know, as a surgeon general, who came from an office that was very focused on traditional topics like tobacco and obesity and sedentary living, I did my part as well and focus heavily on those issues, as did my predecessors. But I came to realize that so much of what we had all cared about, which was reducing physical disease, was deeply tied to our mental health and emotional well-being. And if I wasn’t addressing the latter, it would be tough to effectively address the former.
[11:36] Andy Slavitt: Loneliness in many respects is being imposed on Americans. We’re all going through perhaps some of the greatest financial and health challenges in our lives. And yet our social structure, the connectivity, is being ripped out from us. So we’re used to being able to be with people during hard times that can help us. So how do you help people think through that?
[11:58] Vivek Murthy: I worry that what we’re experiencing now with physical distancing in the face of Covid-19 runs the risk of plunging us even deeper into a well of loneliness. And incurring what I think of as a social recession, which is a deepening of those feelings of isolation that become worse and worse the longer we’re separated from each other. And so I think that has a couple of risks that come along with it. One is that, most importantly, it makes people feel bad because loneliness is not a pleasant feeling to have. But I also worry about the health consequences of loneliness, which we know are serious.
[12:34] We know they’re substantial. And we know they accrue with time. It’s more than just about health, though, Andy. Because when you think about loneliness, when you look at the data on how it impacts the workplace as well, you start to realize very quickly that loneliness doesn’t just affect our physical health, but it affects how we show up in life, at work, in school and even for our families. So I think as we think about what’s happening right now, we’re talking a lot about the direct health impact of Covid-19, we’re talking about the economic impact. But there is a deep social cost as well. And I think we have to think about how we address and ideally prevent a social recession. The good news is I think we can prevent it. In fact, I think we can do better than that. I think we can use this moment as an opportunity to redouble our efforts to connect with each other, to recenter ourselves on relationships. Because the truth is, Andy, if I went out to a street corner in most cities in the United States and stopped 100 people and asked them what their top three priorities were in life, I can almost guarantee you that they would name people in their life. They would talk about their kids or their parents or their spouse. But the reality is that the way that society defines success, and hence the way that we are mobilized and motivated to act and order our priorities, is quite different from that. Society defines success as the ability to acquire wealth, power or reputation/fame. And the more we do that, the more people tell us that we’re succeeding. And I hope that this will be an opportunity, though, for us to just remind ourselves just how much we depend on our relationships, how much we depend on each other, and if we can build that memory into what we take back to our everyday lives. If we can use this time that we’re physically distanced from each other to utilize technology and other means to stay in closer touch with people, perhaps we even were before, then I think we can come out of this traumatic situation hopefully more deeply connected to each other and more committed to each other than before this all began.
[16:42] Andy Slavitt: I think about times when people feel lost and purposeless, and I compare that to times when people may be doing the exact same thing, but they feel united. They feel like they’re doing something for a reason. And that purpose, whether it’s helping other people who maybe even have it a little bit worse, or whether it’s some other way of dealing with this crisis. So you mentioned electronics. My mother lives in another city. We communicate more now than we ever have before. We are on the lookout, and I know many people are for people who are, having a tougher time and pointing out the people that are really, really helping them. I’m not Pollyann-ish, but I would love to help people see what some of the positives are.
[17:28] Vivek Murthy: Absolutely. And, you know, as painful as this time is, I think that there are some positives, as isolating as this time may be. I actually think that there are some concrete steps that we can take to help more deeply connect with each other in this moment. One is to make sure that we’re spending some time each day reaching out to the people we love. That could be you reaching out to your mom, Andy, and videoconferencing with her. That could be calling a friend on the phone. It could be writing to a good friend just as a hey, I’ve been thinking of you and just wanted to know how you’re doing. Ten or 15 minutes doing that may not seem like a lot of time, but it will lift your mood in the moment, and it will also, when done consistently over time, strengthen your lifeline to the outside world. The second thing I think we can use this opportunity to focus on is to improve the quality of the time that we spend with each other. In the modern world, all of us, if not most of us, including myself, are guilty of multitasking when we’re talking to other people. We’re talking to our friend on the phone, but we’re also scrolling through Instagram or Twitter or we’re refreshing our inbox. We’re Googling a question that just popped into our head. And we do this not because we’re bad people. We do this in part because we have easy access to technology, and it’s incredibly seductive in the way it was designed. But we also know that as human beings, we’re terrible at multitasking. And when we’re doing other stuff, we’re not fully paying attention to another human being. One of the greatest gifts that we can give someone else is the gift of our full attention. And if we focus on eliminating distraction while we’re talking to people, and engaging with them now, we can dramatically improve the quality of our interaction.
[19:09] Vivek Murthy: Five minutes, when you’re giving someone your full attention, when you’re sharing openly with them, can be more powerful than half an hour of distracted conversation. But finally, I’ll point out also that there is a surprising solution or antidote to loneliness that I discovered in the writing of this book, which I had not fully expected. And that is in the form of service. So service, it turns out, is a back door out of loneliness. Because what it does, interestingly enough, is it helps shift the focus from yourself to other people in the context of a positive interaction. And it also reaffirms for you that you have value to add to the world. This is so important, Andy, because when people are chronically lonely, one of the things that happens to them, counterintuitively, is their threat level shifts up. Their focus turns inward because they’re worried about safety. In this case, psychological safety. But they also experience an erosion of self-esteem as they start to believe that the reason that they’re lonely is their fault, that maybe they’re not likeable enough. And service is a powerful end-run around those.
[20:17] Vivek Murthy: In this moment where so many people are struggling, we should remember that there are people all around us who we could serve. That could be a neighbor who’s struggling because they’re elderly and can’t get out to go get groceries because they’re worried about their risk of Covid-19. Could be a work colleague who’s struggling to homeschool their children while also teleworking, and simply dropping off a meal to them or having groceries delivered to them could make all the difference in their day. There are many ways to serve the people around us if we only look out for it. And in this day and age, if we think about basic steps like this at the time, we spend with people about improving the quality of it as well as the quantity, and looking for ways to serve, I think we can experience a deepening of connection. The good news is we see that happening all around us. I mean, I can think of no better example of service than the brave men and women who are going to work each day in our hospitals. Many of them are friends of yours and mine. These are extraordinary individuals putting their own lives at risk, but they’re doing so because they have a deep sense of mission. I was walking by a neighbor’s house yesterday and saw a sign outside that said, “thank you, healthcare workers.” And it was made by their children. And it was just this beautiful reminder of how all of us are in this together. And we have this opportunity to remember those who are sacrificing for our well-being.
[21:35] Andy Slavitt: So to listeners, this is the kind of crazy talk I had to hear when Vivek was the surgeon general. Making the world a better place, helping people who are suffering. Helping people achieve happiness in their lives. I want to just maybe throw a couple rapid-fire questions by you, because this isn’t primarily a news podcast, but you’ve got a lot of great perspective. So as we sit here today, April 13th, is the curve flattening?
[21:59] Vivek Murthy: Well, I think the curve in New York is flattening. I think it’s flattened in Washington state. I think in the United States, we’ve got different parts of the country that are on a different pace. So I’m hesitant to say it’s flattening everywhere.
[22:13] Andy Slavitt: The president has a big, as he calls it, a big decision to make coming up in May. And look, we’re two former Obama guys. We’re not here to have a rant about the current administration, but he’s got big decisions to make coming up. Should he or shouldn’t he, quote unquote, open the government or let the economy emerge?
[22:31] Vivek Murthy: Yeah, I think he needs to establish first and foremost the criteria by which he opens the government. Right now, we don’t have a clear one. And I think that’s dangerous. I don’t think we’re gonna be ready to open everything up all around the country on May 1st. I think to do so would risk a severe spike in infections.
[22:48] Andy Slavitt: Got it. And for listeners to know, I spent much of last night working with folks in the White House on a draft of the criteria that I think they’re looking at. So the #StayHome campaign. Is it working? Is it something people should try to stick with?
[23:05] Vivek Murthy: I do. The good news is staying at home is helping us. It’s helping to flatten the curve in many parts of the country. I think we will be able to open up the economy, we’ll be able to get people back to school and to work. It will take more time than just a few weeks. But I think we’re making progress. And I hope that people feel reassured by that.
[23:25] Andy Slavitt: Now I’m gonna ask you maybe an unfair question. But if you were part of briefings in late January, as we understand this administration was, warning of the epidemic coming here, are there things you would have done or you think we would have done that would have been helpful here if you’d have seen some of the emails that had been going on?
[23:49] Vivek Murthy: Well, I think one thing just to understand is you’ve got to approach all these situations with some humility. Everyone who has been through this in an administration knows that there are stumbles inevitably. What matters is how quickly you learn from those mistakes, how quickly you recover. What I would have tried to emphasize early on was that we’ve got to make sure that we are observing critical rules around decision making and communication at a time like that, which is the number one. We’ve got to communicate honestly and openly with people, even when it’s news that we don’t like. Number two, that we’ve got to make decisions in a way that’s driven by science and let scientists be the ones who communicate with the public. And third, that our focus has to be getting resources to the people on the front lines. In this case, not just healthcare workers, but also local departments of public health and now people who are struggling economically. Those, I think, are core principles. They need to be a part of any epidemic response. And the point is, when you do this well, when you act early enough, people will say that you overreacted. You should expect that. But that’s the price that you pay for doing public health well.
[24:55] Andy Slavitt: You’re advising Vice President Biden on this crisis right now and healthcare right now. Maybe just very, very briefly compare and contrast how you think Biden’s personality would be different in handling this crisis than both President Obama’s and President Trump’s?
[25:14] Vivek Murthy: Well, I actually think there’s a lot of similarity between Vice President Biden and President Obama. What I appreciate about Vice President Biden are three critical things. One is that he’s very much a man who values science. And he knows what he knows, but he also knows what he doesn’t know. And he recognizes scientists to lead. Number two, deeply empathic individual. He understands people’s pain at a visceral level, perhaps because he himself has experienced such deep pain in his life. But third, he’s not afraid to make bold decisions, even if they’re unpopular. In those ways, I think he has a lot of similarities to President Obama, as you can see, and as a response to H1N1, to Ebola and even to Zika. But I do think that we could use more emphasis on qualities like that in the current response effort.
[26:03] Andy Slavitt: Got it. OK. I’ve got one more question, which really begins with a confession. You and I were once at Camp David and we were eating together outdoors. I don’t know if you remember this. And they were grilling burgers. And you had a vegetarian burger, I believe.
[26:18] Vivek Murthy: I can’t believe you remember that.
[26:20] Andy Slavitt: And I remember sitting down next to you with this big cheeseburger with like French fries. It’s like the most unhealthy plate of food you could imagine. And I remember sitting down next to the surgeon general of the United States. And I was almost apologetic, staring at that food, sitting in front of you. So now is your chance to make me feel a little bit better. Tell us, what’s the unhealthiest habit you have?
[26:44] Vivek Murthy: I love dessert, particularly bread pudding. And it’s been an ongoing effort for me to cut sugar in my diet, but that’s the bane of my existence right now.
[26:53] Andy Slavitt: Well, here’s to hoping that you never cut it so that the rest of us can feel a little bit better about ourselves.
[27:00] Vivek Murthy: Thanks, Andy.
[27:01] Vivek Murthy: Dr. Murthy, thank you so much for what you’re giving to this country, what you continue to give and for being on In the Bubble.
[27:08] Andy Slavitt: Well, thank you so much, Andy. How much fun this has been to be on with you. And thank you also for everything you’re doing for the country now, that you have done, and that I know you’ll continue to do in the future.
[27:19] Andy Slavitt: More from my bubble after the break. Stay with us.
[27:26] Andy Slavitt: In the Bubble has a team of producers and editors and composers that bring you the show every week. Please help support the creation of the show by going to www.LemonadaMedia.com/IntheBubble. By signing up to pitch in wherever you can, you’ll also get exclusive show content. And any profits that come to Zach or I will be donated directly to Covid relief.
[28:25] Andy Slavitt: Boy, that was great talking to Vivek. As I hope you could tell, he’s just such an incredibly calming, thoughtful guy. He was a great colleague and I think he had some really good thoughts for us. Now is the time for what we professional podcast people call Segment 3. So I’m gonna call my friend and business partner, Trevor Price. Couple of years ago, together with a few other people, we created a group that’s focused on investing in underserved communities in healthcare over the past few years. So just tell you a second about Trevor. He’s an entrepreneur. He has built some really interesting businesses and healthcare. He knows everyone. Everybody knows him. He’s the kind of guy that I think you’ll hear everybody turns to when they need help. Does a lot of people favors. When this all went down, he jumped into action on something interesting. I want to talk to him about it. I’d love for you hear about it. I also have a surprise reason for calling him, which I don’t think he knows. We’re gonna give him a call right now.
[29:27] Trevor Price: Hello?
[29:28] Andy Slavitt: Trevor. Andy.
[29:29] Trevor Price: Hey, man. How are you?
[29:30] Andy Slavitt: Good. Hey, I’m recording this for the podcast.
[29:31] Trevor Price: Oh, boy. Glad you gave me that heads up quickly.
[29:34] Andy Slavitt: I think I have to legally. It’s probably some kind of law. The law of podcasts. Zach is shaking his head no, I did not have to tell you.
[29:42] Trevor Price: Well, Zach would know. Zach knows best here.
[29:44] Andy Slavitt: You’re in New York. I just want to ask you, first of all, who is it that you’re trying to help? And how is what you’re doing going to help them? And then maybe tell me how you brought folks together?
[29:54] Trevor Price: So the two populations that we focus on when we started what we’ve called the New York City Covid Rapid Response Coalition, if you’re over the age of 65 or 70, or you have preexisting health conditions or any number of different high risk factors, if you contract Covid, you’re much more likely to end up in the ICU, requiring emergency care, requiring hospital care and ultimately ventilation. And so could we find and engage these people, support them, you know, treat them and give them all the social and clinical services they need, but in their home so that we would reduce the likelihood that they would contract Covid. The second population that we started thinking about was all of the people with complex medical conditions who are supported day in and day out by this incredible fabric of healthcare and social services institutions in New York like there are in every major city. But what we thought might happen, and it has happened, is that those systems would grind to a halt. And so we kind of said, can we create systems to identify these people, engage them at scale and support them with clinical and social services in their homes so they wouldn’t end up needing to go to the E.R. and the ICU. And that’s what we set out to try to build.
[31:06] Andy Slavitt: We’re reading a lot about how people of color, lower-income people, people that you described, have some illnesses, already are falling more victim, both from a hospitalization rate and a fatality rate. They’re just more susceptible. So it sounds like what you did is you figured out how to identify a large swath of these people and then what do you do? How do you engage them? I know you’ve involved some technology, people and some healthcare service people, and you put all this together in a simple app for people. Can you describe what, if you’re one of these people, what you’ve done feels like?
[31:49] Trevor Price: Yeah. What we did is we brought in the safety-net hospitals that really are, you know, anchors on the acute care side for what you and I describe as vulnerable populations. And we engaged the what I’ll call the managed Medicaid or safety-net plans, Medicaid long term care, whether it’s a metro plus or a health first or VNS choice or others. And if you think about it, those institutions have day-to-day relationships with vulnerable New Yorkers, the elderly, the low socio-economic communities, those who have access challenges because of ethnicity or whatever the issues may be. Those are the people who know them. And so what we did was we basically got those organizations to engage in this coalition. We have local food banks, and we have local food services organizations, and we have local community health worker organizations. And we have in-home or telemedicine care providers. We have some big national entities. Uber Eats and Uber Health have been absolutely great participants in this. And so, yeah, we’re fulfilling the services on the back-end of this. And so if you’re a member of one of these health plans, or you’re seen at one of these hospitals, you get a text message in the morning, say, hey, it’s so and so reaching out. We’re here to help. Can we get your food today? Do you need to talk to a doctor? By delivering food to their home, by delivering medication in their home, by making primary care and specialist consultations available over telemed, we’re keeping them in their home., We’re keeping them to the point where they’re not going to the emergency room.
[33:27] Andy Slavitt: Got it. So the idea is that vulnerable New Yorkers, they get food, transportation services, mental health services and a whole bunch of other services that you’ve matched up on the simple technology people can use by their phone. Do you think this could be replicated in other cities?
[33:43] Trevor Price: Yeah, actually, I’ve been describing it as “design a ship while sailing in the perfect storm,” which is what we’ve been doing in New York City. And we’ve built a playbook that is available to any and all. You can get it on our website, which is www.NYCCovid19.org and then you can get it at the United States of Care website on their Covid hub.
[34:08] Andy Slavitt: This is great. I just want to talk about your podcast for a second because it is so clever and I’ve had the chance to end it a couple times. I just wondered if you’d just mention it real quickly.
[34:17] Trevor Price: Yeah, it’s called A Healthy Dose. Steve Kraus, who’s an amazing investor at Bessemer, and I started this. I guess we’re in our third season. We talk, you know, kind of healthcare, technology, services, health care politics and policy, investing. It’s usually, you know, a 30 to 45 minute conversation with some pretty interesting people. You know a lot of them. Try to get them to open up about who they are and why they do what they do and then provide some insight. Appreciate you bringing up.
[34:48] Andy Slavitt: Hey, is Catie around?
[34:50] Trevor Price: Oh, yes, she is.
[34:51] Andy Slavitt: Do you mind if I just speak to her for a second?
[34:52] Trevor Price: No, not at all. She’d be thrilled.
[34:59] Andy Slavitt: So Catie is Trevor’s 11-year-old daughter. She’s got a lot of spunk. Hey, Catie, how are you doing?
[35:07] Catie: Hi! I’m good. How are you?
[35:09] Andy Slavitt: I’m doing well. You know, I just referred to as 11, but I realized that almost 12 would probably a bit more accurate.
[35:16] Catie: Yeah, soon. I feel like 12 isn’t really like a big number. Like 13 is more kind of like a landmark. I don’t know. It seems kind of like the year before the important year. I’m just wondering, I’ve seen you on news channels. So do you actually see the person when someone asks you a question or are they preplanned questions?
[35:43] Andy Slavitt: Well, that’s a good question. So they don’t tell you the questions before. Sometimes they might tell you the topic. Most of the time it’s on Skype. So I can actually see them and they can see me. And it’s actually a lot better, even though the sound quality is probably not a professional.
[36:01] Catie: Is it kind of fun or is it like scaring you to be like in front of all these people?
[36:05] Catie: It’s not scary. It’s a baby. Maybe it was the first time. You know, I think it’s fun. I think it’s fun to just be asked your opinions on things. I’m sure you love when you get asked your opinions on things. And, yeah, I think it’s important. I mean, my family wants to make sure it doesn’t go to my head. I may walk into the other room and ask if they watch me on TV. They’ll be like, what? No, sorry. We’re doing other things. I actually have a question for you, Catie. I called for a little bit of advice. Next week, I’ve got to talk to 20 million or so kids who are between the ages of, say, five and 15. So you’re kind of smack in the middle. And I’m supposed to talk to them about Coronavirus. You know, our kids are 21 and 18, so I don’t have a lot of practice talking to kids your age. So I want to make sure I get it right. Do you have any advice for me, whether there are kind of questions that you think kids have, or things I should or shouldn’t say?
[37:10] Catie: Well, I think that I’m basing this off of my experience talking to my friends right now. But I think a lot of my friends are uninformed about what’s going on right now. I think for 5 year olds, it would be a little bit intense. But I think for maybe like the kids ranging from like 10 to the oldest person that’s gonna be there, maybe inform them a little bit more about what’s going on, because my dad actually tells me a lot about what’s going on. And my friends are like always asking me questions about it. And I think they’re scared because they don’t really have an idea of how long it’s going to last and how big of a deal this is. And if people are exaggerating. Or if it’s scary because how people are taking it. And how people are getting scared and how people are reacting. Or is it more scary because of the idea of people getting sick and social distancing and all those kind of things?
[38:06] Andy Slavitt: So would your advice be to be truthful, but not in a scary way? And you know, there are some questions that even the grown-ups don’t know the answers to, but the grown-ups are figuring them out.
[38:18] Catie: I think that right now kids are scared about what they’re supposed to be doing. But I think that social distancing is what’s the most important thing for kids. And I think the most important thing is to like stay calm and to make sure that your family and you are social distancing and keeping safe.
[38:37] Andy Slavitt: That is great advice. That is such great advice. You really helped me a ton, Catie. And you’re so smart. My goodness. Can I talk to your dad again?
[38:46] Catie: Yes, of course. I’ll see you later.
[38:48] Andy Slavitt: Thanks, Catie. All right. See you later. Bye bye.
[38:53] Trevor Price: She loves you.
[38:57] Andy Slavitt: Oh, my goodness, oh, my goodness. Well, she’s just made the first half of our phone interview look terrible.
[39:04] Trevor Price: She’s a good kid.
[39:08] Andy Slavitt: Wow. Thank you to Trevor, but especially thank you to Catie. I feel so much smarter listening to you. Thanks, everybody, for listening to In the Bubble. And we will hopefully drop a surprise and very interesting podcast for you in a few days.
[39:25] Andy Slavitt: In the Bubble is a production of Lemonada Media. Niccole Galteland is our producer and Ivan Kuraev is our editor. Music is by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill. Zach Slavtii is our co-producer and my co-host. You can find out more about our show on social media @LemonadaMedia. And you can find me on social media at @ASlavitt on Twitter, @AndySlavitt on Instagram. If you liked what you heard today, tell your family and friends, but tell them at a distance. For now, stay safe. Share some joy. We’ll get through this together. And #StayHome.