Last updated: February 28, 2020

The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has resulted in over 82,000 cases of the disease with more than 2,800 deaths to date. At least 47 countries have been affected around the world. See the latest World Health Organization situation reports.

Wafaa El-Sadr, MD, MPH, MPA, ICAP’s Global Director and University Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine at Columbia University, spoke to Chinese news outlet Xinhua in an interview published on February 26. A video of the interview was published February 27. A further article was published February 28.

“‘It’s very heartening to see how quickly Chinese scientists were able to identify the sequence of the virus’ and published it rapidly thereafter, said Dr. El-Sadr. These are ‘very useful to the global community to understand what this disease looks like.'”

ICAP’s Jessica Justman, MD, is quoted in a February 25 Bloomberg Businessweek article on China’s use of surveillance to track COVID-19 cases and contacts:

“The usefulness of high-tech surveillance tools will be limited until officials identify the incubation period of the new coronavirus and develop rapid diagnostic tests and effective treatment, says Jessica Justman, associate professor of medicine in epidemiology at Columbia University and senior technical director of its global public health center, ICAP. Without a better understanding, ‘it’s going to make it much harder to effectively use the kind of cellphone and other data people are imagining,’ says Justman, who has gone door-to-door across Africa, testing people for HIV to map its spread and provide them with treatment options.”

Dr. Justman is also quoted in a February 15 AFP Q&A about testing for coronavirus in China that appeared across numerous outlets and in Spanish, French, and Portuguese:

“‘It’s a very interesting and logical approach,’ said Jessica Justman, associate professor of medicine in epidemiology at Columbia University, [about Hubei health officials using lung imaging to confirm pneumonia in suspected COVID-19 cases rather than performing an RT-PCR test, which requires special equipment, a clean environment, and highly skilled staff]. Using lung images only works for ‘people with more advanced symptoms,’ she told AFP, which means it would not be used to screen patients early on. But for those later-stage individuals, if there is no access to RT-PCR tests ‘it makes sense.'”

Dr. El-Sadr moderated a panel to address key questions about COVID-19 on Friday, February 14. Panelists included Robert Fullilove, EdD, Dept. of Sociomedical Sciences; Jessica Justman, MD, ICAP at Columbia University; Julie Kornfeld, PhD, MPH, Vice Dean for Education; Nischay Mishra, PhD, Center for Infection and Immunity; and Wan Yang, PhD, Dept. of Epidemiology.


Dr. El-Sadr recently sat down with China-based vlogger Jerry Kowal to discuss the coronavirus outbreak. The February 12 video is available on YouTube with Mandarin subtitles (English audio starts at 0:47).

Columbia University has tapped Dr. El-Sadr’s expertise in infectious disease epidemiology on several recent occasions to address concerns about the novel coronavirus. She joined a panel of Columbia experts for a University Life forum on February 5 and is featured in a Mailman School of Public Health article from February 4. The University of Connecticut Daily Campus covered the panel in an article on their website.



For over 15 years, ICAP has strengthened health systems worldwide to address infectious disease epidemics including HIV/AIDS and the Ebola virus.

A global health leader since 2003, ICAP was founded at Columbia University with one overarching goal: to improve the health of families and communities. Together with its partners—ministries of health, large multilaterals, health care providers, and patients—ICAP strives for a world where health is available to all. To date, ICAP has addressed major public health challenges and the needs of local health systems through 6,000 sites across more than 30 countries.


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