- Wolters Kluwer: CNET, Can you get COVID twice? What to know about coronavirus reinfection, 8/10
- Alera Group: Insurance Journal, Alera Group Acquires Risk Consulting Partners, 8/13
By Lilly Wilcox, English and Communication Studies at Northeastern ’22
While it’s a word that has been overused to describe the winter of 2021, uncertain is how I felt coming into my co-op with Greenough. I was worried about joining the agency virtually, and I didn’t have any background in healthcare or tech PR.
Luckily, the Greenough team is experienced in remote onboarding and was eager to teach me everything I needed to know about these new industries. Working with brilliant colleagues, I have learned an immense amount in a short period of time, and I can hardly believe that my co-op has already come to an end. Following are just a few nuggets of wisdom from Greenough that will stick with me long after my departure:
If you can send an email, you can pitch.
In a weekly debrief meeting in the early part of my co-op, I confessed to Annie, a former co-op turned full-time account executive, that I sometimes felt I wasn’t qualified to pitch seasoned reporters as a college student. Annie passed along advice that she received when she was experiencing the same uncertainty during her first stint at Greenough—pitching is just sending emails.
While it is a little more nuanced than that, Annie gave me a confidence boost and reminded me that everyone has to start somewhere in the PR industry. With the support and expertise of my teams, I was able to develop my pitching skills and deliver results for clients.
Working in PR, you can become an expert in anything.
I was responsible for putting together media scans each morning to track coverage of Greenough clients and industry storylines. While this could be a time-consuming task, it became one that I enjoyed. Kicking off each morning with a deep dive into the news of the day quickly brought me up-to-speed about the clients I worked with and the industries that were new to me.
In a response to a thank you email from a colleague after a particularly long scan, I wrote, “I’ve learned a lot about something I likely wouldn’t have been tuned into otherwise, so doing these media scans has definitely been a valuable experience for me.”
Before working at Greenough, I never imagined I would be able to explain the semiconductor shortage or the significance of allergy diagnostics. Although news scans aren’t the most glamourous part of PR, they have been a crucial part of my learning experience.
PR affects more than just your client.
One of my great privileges at Greenough was supporting the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, which has been diligently working on the front lines of the pandemic. EBNHC was responsible for some of the first and biggest testing operations in Massachusetts and began vaccinating the greater Boston population shortly before I joined the team in January.
One of the Health Center’s missions this past six months has been to combat vaccine misinformation and get shots into the arms of vulnerable populations. Their work has paid off. State data released in May shows that the highest rate of Latinx vaccinations were in East Boston, Chelsea and Revere—all hard-hit areas that were served by the Health Center.
I saw firsthand how Greenough’s efforts getting EBNHC’s message out led to a successful vaccination campaign in the greater Boston area, and I am grateful to have played a small role in that.
Looking back at my co-op experience, I’m grateful for all I’ve learned and know that these lessons will stick with me. I’m excited to take them back the classroom for my final year at Northeastern and pass the baton to Greenough’s next lucky co-op.
Governor Baker holds press conference after touring East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s vaccination clinic at Oceanside Events in Revere.
As we turn the corner on the COVID-19 pandemic, we take a moment to reflect on some of the important work we’ve done over the past 15 months. At Greenough Brand Storytellers we have had the honor of working alongside many clients who have played extraordinary roles in saving and improving lives during the pandemic.
For example, when COVID-19 was first reported, it was Thermo Fisher Scientific who immediately launched a test to detect the virus, now available in 175 countries worldwide. Home-based medical care provider Prospero Health quickly invested in virtual technology to continue to care for vulnerable, chronically ill patients.
And right here in our local community, I have been proud to support the work of East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) in helping hundreds of thousands of people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was a monumental effort and an important story worth telling.
As the first surge raged through the northeast, Chelsea was featured in national headlines as one of the hardest hit communities per capita in the country. Like East Boston, Chelsea is a highly populated, dense city that is home to a large immigrant population, many of whom live in multi-family dwellings and who work in essential, front-line healthcare roles. EBNHC president and CEO Manny Lopes was interviewed on national broadcast news to discuss the health disparities the community faced and the stark inequities that the pandemic exposed.
EBNHC launched the first drive-through COVID-19 testing site at Suffolk Downs and several other public testing sites in East Boston and surrounding communities. Throughout the summer, as tensions over racial justice escalated around the country and demonstrations were held in Boston, EBNHC worked with the City of Boston to stand up pop-up testing sites in COVID-19 hotspots. In total, to-date, EBNHC has processed more than 130,000 COVID-19 tests. The Boston Globe shared the perspective of the “swabbers.”
Beyond healthcare, it became clear that the communities served by EBNHC were suffering from joblessness and food insecurity. EBNHC’s Community Resource and Wellness Center provided much needed services such as guidance on how to stay in one’s home under the State’s eviction moratorium and by providing food each week through a partnership with the Red Cross.
On December 21, 2020, Dr. Jaime Gallegos of EBNHC was the first person in Massachusetts to receive the Moderna vaccine, expressing “relief” after receiving the injection. He would later play a crucial role in educating the community about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines by hosting town halls and webinars with multiple government and community partners.
The lessons that EBNHC learned through its robust COVID-19 testing efforts were then applied to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, prioritizing equity.
In order to open vaccine clinics, EBNHC realized it needed the three “S’s:” Supply, Space and Staff. The state and federal government provided the supply of COVID-19 vaccines. EBNHC opened four brick-and-mortar vaccination clinics in easily accessible, familiar locations in the South End, Chelsea, East Boston and Revere. And at the sites in East Boston and Revere, the State provided members of the National Guard to administer the vaccines.
EBNHC also partnered with other organizations to meet the needs of the community. The staff worked with Last Mile Vaccine Delivery and Get Out the Vax (GOTVax) to create pop-up sites in neighborhoods where the vaccination rates were low. They also worked with major employers in food processing and with school districts such as Revere to vaccinate teachers and students. They collaborated on “Mobile Vax” with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Care. Partnerships with Blue Cross Blue Shield and Lyft also came together. EBNHC partnered with community organizations like La Colaborativa in Chelsea to engage and educate residents. COO and senior vice president Gregory Wilmot spearheaded the effort to bring these partners together and get the community vaccinated quickly and effectively.
At Greenough, our goal was to share up-to-date, factual information that would resonate with the community. We made it a priority to reach out to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking media to share story angles that would reassure community-members of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. We placed several stories in Univision, Telemundo, El Mundo, El Planeta and others. We had providers grace the front page of the Boston Globe four times over the past year. The leadership of Manny Lopes was recognized in a profile in the Boston Business Journal and he became one of Boston’s Most Influential People according to Boston Magazine. Additionally, EBNHC was featured on NBC National News for its efforts on vaccine equity.The work of EBNHC was recognized by our elected officials. Governor Baker toured three of the four brick-and-mortar sites, noting in his press conference that Manny was on a path towards, “world domination.” Senator Elizabeth Warren made her first public appearance since the pandemic started at the vaccination clinic in Chelsea. Senator Ed Markey, Representative Ayanna Pressley, Attorney General Maura Healey, District Attorney Rachael Rollins and many other local leaders visited the vaccination clinics. And even President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden sent 800 commemorative Easter Eggs to EBNHC to thank the staff for their tireless work.
To date, EBNHC has administered 80,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Health Center has vaccinated more than 90% of its staff. By the end of April, the number of Latinx people vaccinated in East Boston was double that of Caucasians. But most impressive is that state data released in mid-May showed that the highest rate of Latinx vaccinations were in East Boston, Chelsea and Revere, a testament to EBNHC’s efforts.
After serving these communities for 50 years, EBNHC was perfectly poised to do this work. In addition to the leadership of Manny Lopes and Gregory Wilmot, we must also recognize Steven Snyder and Brett Phillips for their unrelenting work to ensure that EBNHC’s message was getting out there. We are grateful to have been there in partnership to support the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s heroic efforts.
When vaccines don’t work
Blood cancer survivors. Organ transplant recipients. Cancer patients on certain drugs. Patients with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. People over 80. These are all populations that may not mount an immune response to COVID-19 after being vaccinated. According to The New York Times, numerous studies show that vaccines may be less effective in people who are immunocompromised. Some clinicians suggest routinely measuring antibody response in people who have not produced protective antibodies and may be candidates for monoclonal antibodies treatment or a third vaccine dose.
Getting the vax facts straight
As Michael S. Kinch, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, writes for Technology Networks, “If there are fewer infected people, the number of mutations (and variants) will proportionately decrease.” While some experts say we are near reaching herd immunity, Kinch argues between lack of immune response in some individuals and others who choose not to be vaccinated, reaching 80% immunization will be challenging. He calls on readers to arm themselves with the facts and have “honest and construction conversations with those who are hesitant or opposed to vaccination.”
Testing is here to stay
Until the majority of the population is vaccinated, we’ll need regular testing – but the way we test, and who we test, may look different. One area of continued need: schools. “Testing builds confidence and comfort in going back to school,” Mara Aspinall, an advisor to the Rockefeller Foundation, told Slate.
Covid-19 cases are rising once again, threatening to send more people to the hospital even as vaccinations accelerate nationwide. This week, CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned the U.S. is facing “impending doom” as daily cases grow by at least 5% in 30 states and the District of Columbia. So what’s behind the uptick? Leading public health experts have warned since late February that infections could pick back up again amid the rise of virus variants, but they aren’t the only culprit. More Americans, tired of pandemic restrictions and reassured by lifesaving vaccines, are traveling for spring break and some state leaders are pulling back on restrictions.
Walensky’s warning comes as the White House touts “significant progress” toward President Joe Biden’s fresh goal of administering 200 million shots in his first 100 days in office. The U.S. has a weekly average of 2.7 million shots per day, but vaccine hesitancy continues in many communities. The New York Times reports on one nursing home’s mission to vaccinate its reluctant staff. In the piece, Tina Sandri, CEO of Forest Hills of DC, changed her approach. She had been holding “huddles” with different departments to explain the science of the vaccines, but now, instead of continuing to load people with facts, she focused on asking them: What information do you need? What is your concern? The result: 79% of Sandri’s staff was vaccinated by March.
Last month, healthcare providers also saw the damaging results of a Wall Street Journal examination on the newly implemented Hospital Transparency Rule. According to the law, hospitals must publish their previously confidential prices in an attempt to make the industry more consumer friendly. But reporters for the Journal found that hundreds of hospitals embedded code in their websites that prevented Google and other search engines from displaying pages with the price lists. Foley Hoag attorney and Greenough client, Thomas Barker, told the Journal, “They’re taking an active step to make something harder to find. I would say it violates the spirit of the rule.”
Finally, in an essay published in Stat, R. Sean Morrison M.D., geriatric and palliative medicine physician and professor and chair of the Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, details the reasons why palliative care teams are underutilized despite studies showing improved outcomes for patients and families. He also outlines how to overcome financial barriers for hospitals as well as how to eliminate confusion between hospice and palliative care.