As part of its initiative to pursue virtual programming, the U.S.-Japan Council offered its first webinar of 2020 on April 2. With over 275 participants, this event titled “The Coronavirus in the U.S. and Japan: Perspectives from the Health Sector,” explored the evolving impact of the novel coronavirus in the United States and Japan, and lessons that can be learned from the experiences of the two countries.
The panel held an insightful discussion on the health impact of the virus, featuring immunologist Dr. Mary Collins, Provost of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST); Dr. Hiroyuki Fujita, Founder, President & CEO of Quality Electrodynamics and Chairman of the Board at the Cleveland Clinic; and moderator David Janes, Member of the USJC Program Development Committee and Senior Advisor to the President for Institutional Development at OIST. Attendees were able to ask the panelists questions through the webinar’s Q&A feature, which allowed them to engage directly from their home computer.
Dr. Fujita, sharing the situation of the outbreak in Ohio, discussed the economic ramifications of the coronavirus and shared how his clinic was doing everything it could to avoid laying off workers, noting how detrimental it is to individuals when they lose their jobs during a pandemic. He also emphasized the importance of practicing good hygiene during the outbreak and shared his belief in the necessity of wearing masks when in public.
Dr. Collins, who joined the call from her university in Okinawa, cautioned against being overly optimistic for a quick vaccine, pointing out that human trials are crucial in proving the efficacy of any new drug. She also shared some of the activities that her students were pursuing, including making and distributing hand sanitizer in their community, and running diagnostic tests to develop new types of protective masks.
After polling the audience to gauge their thoughts on whether Japan and the United States can learn lessons from one another’s experiences managing the outbreak, Mr. Janes raised the topic of global information sharing. The panelists discussed the importance of countries providing accurate data in the number of coronavirus-related deaths, testing metrics and success measures.
“Right now, [this pandemic] is touching every country on this planet, so to that end, I think what’s going to be important is that… USJC can become a platform where U.S. policy makers and Japanese policy makers convene to talk about what we can do together to expedite our treatment,” said Dr. Fujita, commenting on the necessity of streamlining research and treatment processes for the benefit of people all over the globe. “I think in the coming years, one of the opportunities we have at USJC is to make a study group or working group to be a matchmaker between private sectors in both countries. I think we have a lot of opportunities… We have to help each other.”
The U.S.-Japan Council will continue to offer virtual programming during and beyond the novel coronavirus outbreak. The next webinar, titled “Coronavirus: Social and Economic Shifts in the U.S. and Japan” will take place on April 27, and further virtual events, including virtual luncheons and discussion groups, are being planned at the regional level.