(CNN)Covid-19 isn't the only health crisis threatening our nation right now. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks to epidemiologist Dr. Camara Jones about the serious impact of racism on public health. Jones is senior fellow at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute and the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine. She also shares important guidance for protesters to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Two Viruses: Dr. Sanjay Gupta's coronavirus podcast for June 5
You can listen on your favorite podcast app, or read the transcript below.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: These are the sounds of protest.
For the past 10 days, people across the country have been demanding justice for the police killing of George Floyd.
And all of this in the midst of a pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of people, shoulder to shoulder, marching through the streets to fight a different — but no less serious — public health issue.
The intersection between race and health has been Dr. Camara Jones' life's work. She's an epidemiologist and past president of the American Public Health Association. So, I turned to her to learn more about how these two are connected.
I will tell you now, she is hopeful that this system can be fixed.
I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent. And this is "Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction."
You know, the news cycle is fast and, you know, lately and everything feels like it has to be in these soundbites, but I just want to — I just want a dialogue with you a little bit and maybe just start off by asking you just how are you doing mentally, emotionally?
Dr. Camara Jones, adjunct associate professor of community health and preventative medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine: Right well, I'm — I have a slow, seething rage. And I'm wondering what in my toolbox — which tools that are in my personal toolbox I should be taking out to use in this moment. So I'm using some of them. But I think I need to use maybe one or two more.
We're really at a huge crossroad. And so everybody recognizes, OK, this is the time for me to bring my energy into this and hopefully push us in the right direction.
Gupta: This is your life's work. And we're going to talk about this inflection point between the pandemic and the protests, just from a health standpoint. But just now, does now feel different to you? I mean, you look over the last — just look over the last few years, but then you can go back 60 years, you know. Does it feel different this time, Doctor?
Jones: Right. It does.
This is my life's work, my life's work has been on naming, measuring and addressing the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of the nation.
And, well, first of all, let me say what racism is. Racism is a system of structuring opportunity and of assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks, which is what we call race, that unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities.
But every unfair disadvantage has its reciprocal, unfair advantage. So it also unfairly advantages other individuals and communities.
The national awakening to racism, first with the unexpected disproportionate impact of Covid-19, first on black Americans and black and brown Americans and black-brown Native Americans, and now you're talking about Pacific Islanders in California.
But the way that Covid-19 uncovers structural racism — so that was not the first time that that's happened in the nation, it happened with Hurricane Katrina, happened with the poison in the Flint water supply.
And now with the murder, the cold, unfeeling, with people around you condoning it, murder of George Floyd, which is on tape, that has awakened another whole group of people about racism.
This awakening, though, I know is not a permanent awakening unless we make it so.
Gupta: Right now, you do have people who are protesting for all the reasons that we're talking about. And we are in the middle of a pandemic, which means a contagious virus is circumnavigating the whole globe.
One thing we've been told is to try and keep your distance, you know, try and reduce the spread. And so you have both of these things happening at the same time.
There's no one better maybe in the world to ask than you about this. What do you tell people?
Jones: So I think that we have to protest. And if you are lucky enough to have an N95 mask that can also protect you, or if you have a two-layer mask or a mask that has a lining and then you can cut some coffee filter or something and put that in between the lining and the other part of the mask, that can protect you as well as protecting other people. Maybe you can get a face shield.
But I think that, that we have to signal for all to see that — that things are not OK right now. Things are very much not OK.
And then it's about risk reduction, if you can stay 6 feet from other people, that's fine. If you're going to be chanting and shouting that you need to make sure you have your mask on to protect others and hopefully be surrounded by other