Addressing Disinformation About COVID-19 and India

FACT CHECK: Addressing Disinformation about COVID-19 and India on May 16th, 2021

India and its neighbors are experiencing a heartbreaking and virulent wave of COVID-19 that is overloading the country’s infrastructure and costing thousands of lives per day. The outbreak has been described as the greatest humanitarian threat to India since Partition in 1947. The public health crisis has been exacerbated by an outbreak of disinformation and misinformation, often compounded by a loss of confidence in vital institutions like government, scientific academies and the media. What is the truth about what’s happening in India? How can those of us in the diaspora best support folks back home? Hear from a diverse panel of experts in data science, business, media and philanthropy – along with America’s top doctor and an eminent, truth-telling virologist from one of India’s most prestigious medical institutions. We will present the facts, answer your questions and invite you to participate in strategic planning sessions at this urgent community town hall.

Dr. Vivek H. Murthy is the 21st Surgeon General of the United States. As the nation’s top doctor, the Surgeon General works to establish trust in our public health systems by communicating the best scientific information available, providing clear, consistent guidance and resources for the public, and ensuring that those messages reach our most vulnerable communities. As the Vice Admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Dr. Murthy commands a uniformed service of more than 6,000 scientists, health professionals and engineers who advance the health and well-being of underserved and vulnerable populations at home and abroad.

Nisha Desai Biswal is president of the U.S.-India Business Council and senior vice president for South Asia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Biswal provides strategic guidance and leads advocacy efforts on behalf of USIBC’s more than 300 member companies, promoting long-term commercial partnerships to advance the bilateral trade relationship between the U.S. and India. Biswal served as assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State from 2013 to 2017. There she oversaw the U.S.-India strategic partnership during a period of unprecedented cooperation, including the launch of an annual U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue.

S. Mitra Kalita (moderator) is a veteran journalist, media executive, prolific commentator and author of two books. She is the co-founder and CEO of URL Media, a network of Black and Brown community news outlets that share content and revenue. URL Media works with mainstream newsrooms to syndicate content and partner on diversity initiatives in content, staffing and culture. Prior to founding her own media company, Kalita served as a Senior Vice President at CNN Digital, Managing Editor at the Los Angeles Times and Executive Editor at Quartz, where she launched Quartz India. She is the co-founder and publisher of Epicenter-NYC, a newsletter to help New Yorkers get through the pandemic. Kalita is currently a visiting fellow at Harvard University and sits on the board of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Dr. Gagandeep Kang is a Fellow of the Royal Society and Professor of Microbiology at Christian Medical College in Vellore, India. Dr. Kang is known for her inter-disciplinary research studying the transmission, development and prevention of enteric infections and their sequelae in children in India. To develop practical approaches to support public health, she has also built national rotavirus and typhoid surveillance networks, established laboratories to support vaccine trials and conducted phase 1-3 clinical trials of vaccines, a comprehensive approach that has supported two WHO pre-qualified vaccines, made by two Indian companies. She is investigating the complex relationships between infection, gut function and physical and cognitive development, and seeking to build a stronger human immunology research in India.

Parag Mehta is a Senior Vice President at Mastercard, where he leads the company’s efforts to advance sustainable and equitable economic growth around the world as Executive Director of the company's Center for Inclusive Growth. He has spent the past 20 years working to advance justice, inclusion and human rights through political activism, public service and now philanthropy. Parag played several leadership roles in President Obama’s administration including as Chief of Staff to the U.S. Surgeon General. He is the Board Chair of New American Leaders, a national nonprofit organization that works to elect immigrants and refugees to public office.

Dr. Ali H. Mokdad is a Professor of Health Metrics Sciences and serves as Chief Strategy Officer for Population Health at the University of Washington. Prior to this role, Dr. Mokdad worked at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has published groundbreaking research on local-level disease trends and leading risk factors for poor health.