HONOLULU (KHON2) — The director of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, made a stop in Hawaii on Monday to meet with University of Hawaii medical school personnel.

During her visit, Dr. Walensky talked story with John A. Burns School of Medicine students and faculty, where she discussed her position as the director of the CDC and offered advice for their careers.

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According to Dr. Walensky, Hawaii has an “incredible health and healthcare system,” and she found it helpful to hear their questions on issues around data, vaccine hesitancy, and disparities in health, especially among Pacific Island and Native Hawaiian populations.

She said, “I was impressed with the incredible work that has happened here.”

Dr. Walensky also addressed the United States Navy’s efforts to defuel Red Hill fuel tanks and assured the public that the CDC is collaborating with Hawaii’s health department to assess chemical exposure.

“We’ve been here… In collaboration with the Department of Health and Department of Defense to do an assessment of chemical exposure,” Dr. Walensky said. “We want to be very transparent with those data, and we’ve been invited back to help with some of the medical chart reviews and we will be here.”

Regarding COVID-19, President Biden signed a bill on Monday to declassify information relating to the origins of the virus.

Dr. Walensky said, “What this pandemic has demonstrated is there is a possibility it was a lab leak there was a possibility that it was a natural host, regardless we as a public health agency need to be prepared for wherever the next public health threat comes from.”

Hawaii has been struggling with COVID-19 due to the lack of trained nurses to handle ICU patients. The federal government has provided Hawaii with $14 million in health infrastructure, workforce, and data systems.

Dr. Walensky encouraged the next generation of nurses to get on-the-job training in ICUs and emphasized the importance of self-care to prevent burnout.

“We need to inspire the next generation which is part of what I was here to do,” Dr. Walensky said. “Finally, make sure they have the time and grace so they can take care of themselves because so much of what we saw in COVID-19 was burnout.”

As for long COVID, Dr. Walensky said that more science needs to be done, but the CDC has seen promising results that the effects of long COVID are diminishing over time.

Get more coronavirus news: COVID vaccines and boosters

“What we do know is there continues to be data to emerge that vaccines not only help protect you against the acute disease, but it helps protect you against long COVID as well,” Dr. Walensky said.


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