David Watts, MSPH, CIH, Senior Industrial Hygienist and long-time infectious disease expert, is helping lead CTEH’s COVID-19-related response efforts, both in the U.S. and abroad. We recently spoke with David about this work and his commitment to keeping people and communities safe during these unprecedented times. Read more of our Q&A below:

What do your COVID-19-related duties entail?
Every day, we field a myriad of questions from clients who need assistance or guidance on COVID-19-related matters. My days are consumed with research on SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious diseases. Information is rapidly developing so we are extremely diligent about vetting sources, cross-referencing, validating documents, and reviewing studies. We then distill this data into digestible information for our clients.

CTEH has responded to infectious disease outbreaks around the globe. How does this experience benefit your current work?
It’s impossible to prepare for a pandemic of this magnitude that has affected every country in the world. However, our firm has learned lessons and honed skills from previous epidemics and outbreaks that are helpful. One key to our success is our ability to quickly access information and data in real-time from trusted sources. We operate in a culture of readiness, where urgency is a requisite trait. We are never intimidated by the complexity or size of a situation.

Can you tell us more about your infectious disease-related expertise or credentials?
I am a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and hold a Master of Science in Public Health. I am a generalist when it comes to industrial hygiene and occupationally-related exposures. I developed an affinity for infectious and biological diseases when I studied fungal and bacteria-borne disease early in my career. This evolved into practical application involving complex projects on avian influenza, Ebola, Legionellosis, H1N1 virus, ricin, and hantavirus.

What are the differences between this outbreak and others you’ve worked on before? 
The global scale of COVID-19 and the intense level of media attention has created a constant state of “truthing.” This means we have to combat misinformation and misperceptions nearly as much as we have to gather data and educate people on risk mitigation.

Why do you think CTEH is so successful in tackling international health emergencies like COVID-19?
We strongly believe no situation is too big or complex for our expertise. Over the years, we have learned to approach crises with a measured, informed, and science-based manner to achieve successful outcomes. Whether local or global, we tackle all emergencies with this same mindset, with slight modifications for scalability or cultural differences.

Have additional COVID-19-related questions? Contact us at webquestion@cteh.com.

Any scientific or medical information included in this article is current as of the date of publication; however, public health knowledge of COVID-19 is rapidly developing. Readers are advised to monitor national, state and local public health agencies for current recommendations regarding any infectious disease.