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RHODE MAP

One of the best-known public health experts in the world is taking his talents to Brown University

14jha - Dr. Ashish Jha, faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, on December 6, 2019. (Lisa Abitbol/HGHI)
14jha - Dr. Ashish Jha, faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, on December 6, 2019. (Lisa Abitbol/HGHI)Lisa Abitbol/HGHI

Happy Tuesday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and you know it’s a bad sign when the Red Sox trade a bunch of players you forgot were on the team for a bunch of players you’ve never heard of. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 21,949 confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday, after adding 266 new cases since Friday. The most recent test-positive rate was 1.2 percent. The state announced two more deaths, bringing the total to 1,048. There were 77 people in the hospital, nine in intensive care, and five were on ventilators.

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If you’ve watched or read any news about the coronavirus over the last six months, there’s a good chance that Dr. Ashish Jha was somehow involved. He’s become a mainstay on television and he is regularly cited as an expert in publications across the globe. Even Room Rater hearts him.

And when things get back to normal, there’s now a good chance you’ll see him at WaterFire or Fellini.

Jha’s last day as faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute was Monday, and today he begins his new role as the dean of Brown’s School of Public Health. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about his new gig.

Q: You were announced as the dean of Brown’s School of Public Health on Feb. 26, and then the entire world changed. How much did you know about the coronavirus at the time?

Jha: By the time of the announcement, it had dawned on me that our response to this novel virus would be worse than I had anticipated. I had thought – and I wrote a piece in Health Affairs in January about this – that our high-quality healthcare delivery system and our strong public health agencies would allow for a robust and effective response. The US health care system has done exceptional work in this pandemic, but by late February it was clear that valuable time had been wasted and our government just hadn’t done some of the essential things you do when a pandemic is imminent, such as producing millions of COVID-19 tests to spring into action once the first outbreaks would occur.

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If anything, that made me more determined and excited about the opportunity to lead the Brown University School of Public Health. This isn’t just a historic crisis, it is also a pivotal moment for public health, and we need the best public health researchers and practitioners to work with economists, political scientists and other experts to study and overcome the challenges to our pandemic response that weren’t anticipated.

Q: Most of us get to slack off a little before we transition into a new job, but you became one of the most visible public health experts on the planet over the last six months. What has that experience been like?

Jha: I think, like everyone else who has been working on the response to COVID-19, it has been an extraordinary couple of months. The pandemic has exposed the need for a lot of important analytic and policy work, and as researchers, not just at Harvard but also at Brown and other universities and think tanks, we have dedicated ourselves to trying to provide analysis and the best set of answers to policy makers and the public, as new outbreaks and new evidence have emerged. We must be guided by evidence in the pandemic. Working on the response has been a deeply collaborative process for me, as the challenges we are facing are complex and no single person or institution alone can fix them.

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Q: It feels a little like Brown is getting the LeBron James of public health. What attracted you to the university and what does success look like for you?

Jha: There is incredibly important work happening at Brown and I am excited about learning from colleagues such as Megan Ranney, who made a tremendous difference starting #GetUsPPE. Brandon Marshall has been doing critical work on the intersection of the pandemic and opioids. Joe Hogan has been doing critical work on sero surveillance in the state. And Emily Oster has been doing groundbreaking work on children, outbreaks, and the implications for schools. The list goes on. One of the many things that attracted me to Brown is that the university is a leader, not just in one or a few fields of study, but across a diverse set of disciplines that are all relevant to our understanding of the past and the present, and to building pathways to a better future. Success to me will be that we all work together to bring this pandemic to a reasonable end. And after that, we work together on addressing other key issues of our time.

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Q: You’ve already played a key behind-the-scenes role as an advisor to the state during the pandemic. Aside from your job at Brown, what kind of work would you like to do for Rhode Island going forward?

Jha: I hope to stay engaged and to advise and help Governor Gina Raimondo and the Department of Health in any way I can. I also want to make sure our school is broadly engaged with the governor, the director of health, and their teams. Let’s expand and build on what we have done so far and continue to work to make progress containing and suppressing this pandemic and treating people who have been infected with the best possible care.

THE GLOBE IN RHODE ISLAND

Rhode Map wants to hear from you. If you’ve got a scoop or a link to an interesting news story in Rhode Island, e-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ Governor Raimondo gave all but two school districts the green light to reopen for in-person learning on Sept. 14, but she said they can “ease into” bringing all students back by Oct. 13. Meanwhile, Providence isn’t ready to reopen for all students, but elementary schools are opening their doors on Sept. 14.

⚓ Analysis: It may feel like the state is punting the reopening decision to local districts, but the approach is pretty consistent with the one Raimondo has taken all summer.

Ed Fitzpatrick reports that the PawSox are bringing their on-field dining program to the “Field of Dreams” movie site in Iowa. Hot take: “Eight Men Out” is way better than “Field of Dreams.”

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⚓ These three Pawtucket women are going to make you smile.

MORE ON BOSTONGLOBE.COM

Sports: Bob Ryan pays tribute to Providence College graduate and basketball coaching legend John Thompson, who died Sunday.

Opinion: It may feel like the odds are stacked against President Trump, but John Ellis writes that he could still win the Electoral College.

Health: My colleague Felice J. Freyer has an important story on COVID-19 patients who continue to endure symptoms weeks and months after the initial infection.

Entertainment: Everyone is buzzing about “Tenet.”

WHAT’S ON TAP TODAY

Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ It’s primary day in Massachusetts.

⚓ Governor Raimondo is holding another coronavirus press conference at 1 p.m.

⚓ An advocacy group pushing for the state to invest in housing is holding an 11 a.m. rally.

⚓ Don’t forget to submit your entry in the Rhode Map primary contest.

⚓ Do you ❤️ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to dan.mcgowan@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you tomorrow.

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Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.