By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
mgray@afro.com

Howard University President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick has done as much work in the emergency room as he has in the boardroom since the COVID-19 pandemic began its attack on the D.M.V.  Frederick, an M.D. by trade, is also serving as the Chairman of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Council of Presidents through this challenging time and has an ominous, yet hopeful, diagnosis of how the coronavirus is affecting the United States and the world.

“As a physician I would say the patient is critically ill right now,” Dr. Frederick said in an exclusive interview with the AFRO.  “However, I would add that it’s a treatable disease and they have to comply with the medications and treatment that is prescribed.”

Howard University President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick. (Screengrab YouTube)

Dr. Frederick is optimistic that if America follows the prescription of social distancing, no large mass gatherings, masking while in public and self isolation if not feeling well before getting tested will mitigate the effects of the pandemic. However, that optimism has been tempered by the process of testing, which is flawed and having the greatest impact on the most vulnerable residents, who are low income African Americans and Hispanics.

“We have to improve our testing, there’s no doubt about it,” Dr. Frederick added.  “We are doing a better job, but we must increase it further because we have to find out who has this awful virus and if we are isolating them.  Taking the host away, the virus will ultimately make the virus go away.”

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser solicited the help of Howard University Hospital with the District’s pandemic relief efforts as treatment spaces began dwindling once the crisis mounted. The hospital expanded its capacity for patients by adding beds, while aggressively testing all it’s healthcare staff to give them a baseline for how the virus was impacting them. It was able to provide options for their frontline workers to either quarantine themselves at work or safely travel home despite the possibility of infecting their families.

“Our healthcare employees stepped up so we made sure we could do things to help them,” said Dr. Frederick.  

As the leader of the MEAC Council of Presidents, Dr. Frederick finds himself leading another battle facing universities’ intercollegiate athletics participation whenever there is life after COVID-19.  The conference is exploring the option of fall sports competition next spring –  which he acknowledges will be “challenging” – while helping rebuild a league with his peers through another unexpected transition. Defections by North Carolina A&T, Florida A&M, Bethune Cookman and Hampton have also left the MEAC scrambling to remain a viable football conference at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (Division I-AA) level as it prepares for what was supposed to be a 50th anniversary celebration.

However, Dr. Frederick also sees this as a transcendent moment of history that will serve the generation of young people who are experiencing it for the rest of their lives. He acknowledges that life has changed forever by the pandemic in the same way as older Americans faced post 9/11. 

“I think that when you see something like this at their early age it’s something that can impact you for the rest of your life in a positive way,” Dr. Frederick said. “And I think that’s what we will see.”